Super Bowl LVIII sponsor NFL and Las Vegas share big health care woes

Las Vegas health careNow that Super Bowl LVIII is upon us here in Las Vegas, it’s time to rehash an issue I’ve harped upon. In my view the country’s most popular sporting event and the country’s most popular entertainment town are a perfect fit for this shocking reason: Both offer shameful healthcare to their constituencies, and have for a long time.

Allow me to explain. Since much of this material is drawn from a post early last year, forgive me for sounding like a broken record. But maybe I’m just spoiled. Before becoming New To Las Vegas, I lived around places with terrific health care like Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston and New York. Continue reading

This week in Nevada: Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, centennial of world’s first gas-chamber execution

first gas-chamber execution

Gee Jon (courtesy Nevada Historical Society) Quarterly)

Most of the U.S. and even much of the world will be fixated this weekend on Las Vegas when Super Bowl LVIII (58 for those not fluent in Roman) is played in Allegiant Stadium between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. It will be a first for Nevada, which until not too long ago was on the National Football League’s boycott list for moral reasons due to legalized sports betting in the state. Then team owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell realized widespread gambling would greatly increased the value of their franchises and decided they could live with some immorality.

As it happens, this first for Nevada coincides with the 100th anniversary of another big Nevada first raising questions of morality. For it was on February 8, 1924–a century ago tomorrow–that Nevada carried out the world’s very first capital punishment execution by lethal gas. Touted at the time as a humane alternative to electrocution, hanging, firing squad, guillotining, stoning, burning at the stake or whatever, the execution of Gee Jon didn’t go well. A huge story at the time, the botched process brought ridicule and contempt to the Silver State and helped trigger wide debate for decades about how to properly carry out capital punishment.

Gas chambers, in Nevada and some other U.S. jurisdictions, eventual gave way to lethal injections–until some executioners started having problems legally getting the drugs necessary to carry out death sentences. Earlier this month, Alabama carried out the first execution in years using gas, in this case pure nitrogen, depriving condemned killer Kenneth Smith of oxygen and thus life. Witnesses were split on whether it prevented undue suffering to the condemned. Some states are even authorizing firing squads again.

And, amazingly, a still-undecided case that was argued nearly a year ago before the Nevada Supreme Court–the very same panel that greenlighted a different kind of gas a century ago–concerns whether Nevada, which has more than 60 persons on Death Row, can carry out an execution using yet another untested procedure used nowhere else in the world. In this case it would be lethal injection, but employing a mixture of chemicals never before used but which are easier to get. Nevada hasn’t executed anyone since 2006. In December 2022, a court on procedural grounds blocked lame duck Democratic governor Steve Sisolak’s effort to commute all death sentences to life without the possibility of parole.

There are lessons to be learned here, especially whether a thinly populated desert state devoted to minimal government can pull off such a feat. Much of the following account repurposes material previously posted from time to time on this blog since I became New To Las Vegas. Continue reading

Near Super Bowl LVIII, a posted sign shows why Las Vegas is, uh, different

Sign, Nevada State Recycle, Las Vegas

Here’s more evidence that Las Vegas, host in less than two weeks to Super Bowl LVII, is, uh, different than other places. A sign posted prominently by the front door of Nevada State Recycle, one of Las Vegas’s leading recyclers of electronic and other items, lists material that won’t be accepted. The roster starts out rather unsurprisingly–asbestos, raw sewage, contaminated soil, radioactive waste, septic tank pumpings, etc.

Then–almost as an afterthought–there is the final entry at the bottom of what Nevada State Recycle won’t take, in red print, no less:

“Stolen items.”

Yes, in Las Vegas, folks have to be told they can’t get just ditch purloined property–maybe to get rid of the evidence–by handing it to a business establishment that doesn’t pay for donations. You can see the sign in the nearby photo. Continue reading

New history of American Mafia deals a little with Las Vegas

Las Vegas MafiaThe one-liner is in terrible taste, but absolutely too funny to ignore. It’s found in the newly published Borgata, Rise of Empire: A History of the American Mafia (Volume 1), by Louis Ferrante, an ex-Mafioso himself. He describes the 1947 assassination of Las Vegas mobster Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel, shot from a rifle nine times in the head at point-blank range while reading a newspaper in the living room of his girl friend’s Beverly Hills home.

“With Siegel’s blood and brains all over the newspaper,” Ferrante cracks, “it can be said that the Los Angeles Times got the story first.”

The line comes in “The Desert King Dethroned,” one of two chapters dealing with the rise (and fall) of Siegel as Las Vegas’ most famous resident mobster, despite the fact he lived in Sin City barely a year before his violent exit. But that’s largely it in the book for any history of the Mob and Sin City. Borgata volume 1 ends with the Mob being chased out of Havana after Castro came to power in 1959. This move is widely credited with focusing organized crime on Las Vegas, where gambling already at least was legal and mobsters could skim off winnings, uh, tax-free. I suppose we’ll have to wait for volumes 2 or 3, which Ferrante implies in his text already have been written. (Borgata, by the way, means mafia family, and Ferrante counts 26 of them across the U.S.). Continue reading

Ho, ho, ho! Faux charity with no track record is back illegally ringing a bell in Las Vegas

faux charity’tis the holiday season, when folks are in a generous mode and perhaps have let down their guard. I’m here to warn you about a wolf in charity clothing–“Ray Wolfe,” to be specific.

That’s the new name of the computer-generated voice using soundboard technology that recently cold-called the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. “Wolfe”–I use quotes because there was no such person–wanted me to contribute to something called Police Officers Support Committee PAC, part of another something called POSC PAC. With a sense of urgency, “Wolfe” made an extremely quick general spiel about the urgent need to support law enforcement followed by an extremely quick ask for a donation.

I paused. “What will you use the money for?” I asked.

“Okay,” “Wolfe” said. “Goodbye.” Click.

Totally on the up-and-up, of course. Continue reading

Las Vegas predictions for 2024

Las Vegas predictionsPublished last December, my Las Vegas predictions for 2023 were mainly meant to be satirical. Yet they managed to stumble upon a few grains of truth.

From the New To Las Vegas world headquarters, I divined that Cisco Aguilar, then the newly elected Nevada Secretary of State, would continue the policy of not enforcing a new state law requiring many telemarketers soliciting funds within Nevada for dubious causes to first register their cause with the state. During the year his office admitted this was true.

My prediction that the paid print circulation of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, then 45,383 and upwards of 215,000 as recently as 2015, would fall below 40,000 despite a sharp increase in the local population, proved to be spot on. The count dropped to 39,833.

I opined that Nevada’s unemployment rate would remain well above the national average. And it has. The national average right now is 3.7%. Nevada is 5.4%, or 46% higher. In fact, the Silver State has the highest state rate in the country.

Most of the other predictions bombed spectacularly: that Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara would be fired and rehired yet again, Elon Musk would ban the words “Las Vegas” from what used to be called Twitter, the world-famous “Body in a Barrel” case on Lake Mead would be solved as a non-Mob crime (still no identification).

So with this mixed record, here are my predictions for 2024.They’re still mainly intended to be satirical. Continue reading

It Didn’t Stay Here: George Santos allegedly spent campaign money on Las Vegas honeymoon

It Didn't Stay Here

George Santos

See update at end of story.

Thanks to a new report from the U.S. House of Representatives in far-away Washington, D.C., there’s a new candidate for my long-running list, “It Didn’t Stay Here.” That’s a roster of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas. The concept is a refutation of “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” That’s the celebrated marketing slogan dreamed up just two decades ago for the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority in part to, it seems, help draw ne’er-do-wells with spendable financial resources to Sin City. The full list is nearby.

The newest entry: George Santos. He’s the Republican Congressman from Long Island, N.Y., in trouble for allegedly stealing and lying his way into the House. If an official report is correct, his checkered route took him through Sin City. Continue reading

Far from Las Vegas: Satirical cuts before new SCOTUS ethics code

SCOTUS ethics code

U.S. Supreme Court

In an effort at satire, the New to Las Vegas world headquarters has obtained the earlier drafts of the new Supreme Court ethics code announced yesterday. To avoid bias, the court in conference had asked that the first version be written by AI “in the style of John Marshall Harlan.” He was the conscience of the Supreme Court more than a century ago with his dissents favoring civil liberties and equal rights.

But since unanimity was required in the court of public opinion for the new code, the objection of any one justice required a provision to be struck. As the draft went through the review process, a large amount of extremely specific material was cut in favor of blander generalities.

Here is a purportedly leaked list of deleted passages and who vetoed them. Only Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest justice, objected to nothing.

CANON 2(B): “A justice shall not sit in a case in which a family member within the third degree played a role in hiring advocates appearing before the court.” JOHN G. ROBERTS Jr.

CANON 4(D)(3): “A justice shall not take a seat on a private plane for personal travel without paying the going rate.” CLARENCE THOMAS, SAMUEL A. ALITO Jr. Continue reading

In Las Vegas, cancer ‘faux charity’ trolling illegally spent 0% fighting cancer

cancer faux charityThe grandly named American Breast Cancer Coalition PAC is, to put it mildly, a misnomer. The dictionary definition of “coalition” connotes some kind of plurality. But ABCC-PAC has no employees, no volunteers and just one part-time board member/officer.

Nor has the organization ever fought breast cancer institutionally in any real way. This conclusion is based on its own federal filings–under oath, no less!–showing that 0% was spent toward that worthy cause from the millions of dollars raised using outside vendors during its entire four years of existence.

ABCC-PAC is itself a cancer, on society. The organization is what I call a faux charity. That’s a political action committee that presents like a meritorious exempt organization as it cold-calls unsuspecting Mom and Pop donors, in Las Vegas and elsewhere nationally, with a slick pitch and a quick ask. It’s counting on complete suckers at the other end of the phone line. Sadly, faux charities often find them. Some call these outfits scam charities.

At least in Las Vegas, where I live, ABCC-PAC gets away with this partly by flouting a Nevada law prohibiting fundraisers, including PACs, from soliciting in the state for, among other causes, “any … public health … purpose” without first registering with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office (SOSO) and making financial filings. ABCC-PAC is not registered and never has been. SOSO has the power to issue cease-and-desist orders and levy civil financial penalties. But it never has done so, against ABCC-PAC or any of the dozens of faux charities likely making hundreds of thousands of similar calls a year to my fellow Nevadans.

How big a player in Nevada telemarketing is ABCC-PAC, which lists an address in Washington, D.C.? I have no idea. But it’s called me twice this year alone at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. And I’m in just one of the Silver State’s 1.25 million households. Continue reading

Firefighter faux charity illegally soliciting in Las Vegas still spends nothing on stated mission

firefighter faux charityOne thing you have to say for National Committee for Volunteer Firefighters PAC: It’s consistent.

When a robocall computer using a voice powered by soundboard technology called the New To Las Vegas world headquarters in mid-2020 asking for a donation to the political action committee, I did a little research. It turned out the PAC, ostensibly based in Boston, had raised $240,000 in donations across the country. But its own public records showed it hadn’t given even a single penny to any political campaign in further of its main stated mission, which is to support the causes of, well, volunteer firefighters.

Clearly, NCVF PAC was what I call a faux charity. That’s a PAC that presents as a charity but isn’t and spends almost all the money raised on fundraising and overhead and undisclosed compensation to its organizers. Others call such outfits scam charities.

Fast forward to now. NCVF PAC is still around. Its robocall computer using a voice powered by soundboard technology recently called me again with the same charity-sounding pitch. The call from “Tom Evans” was short, and you can listen to substantially the same pitch with the same fake name as recorded by an anti-robocall web site by clicking here. I did a little more research. In the three-and-a-half-year period since its inception through June 30, 2023, NCVF PAC has receive nearly $5 million in donations around the country, mostly from small Mom and Pop donors. I’ll let you guess how much of that NCVF PAC’s own filings say went to identified political candidates during that entire period, which included two national election seasons.

If you guessed anything greater that zero dollars, you guessed high.

But one thing has changed between the two calls. In 2021, Nevada, where I live, passed a sweeping law prohibiting any organization from fundraising in the Silver State for, among other causes, “the benefit of … firefighting,” without first registering and making filings with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. The prohibition, codified as Nevada Revised Statutes 82A.010 et seq., embraces all entities, including PACs. I checked with the Secretary of State’s Office, and there’s no registration or filings on behalf of NCVF PAC.

So the call I just received was illegal, punishable by civil sanctions including financial penalties. But Nevada regulators have been MIA on this issue of illegal solicitation. Were they to act, though, it wouldn’t be the first time NCVF’s founder has been in the crosshairs of government authorities. Continue reading

Has Las Vegas become the fraud capital of America?

Las Vegas fraud capitalThere was the lawyer who collected a whopping $500 million after promising hundreds of investors around the world a 50% annual return in what prosecutors call a classic Ponzi fraud scheme. The telemarketer who raised huge amounts of money nationwide for faux charities. The promoter who swindled small business owners everywhere out of nearly $12 million by collecting fees for promising grants that never materialized. The seven-person ring that collected $10 million million in fees after sending out thousands of phony prize notifications redeemable upon payment of small fees that can add up. The man who swindled more than $3 million in security deposits across the country. The tax preparer caught collecting nearly $10 million in phony refunds. A plethora of other cases too numerous to mention, especially COVID-19 loan refund fraud and identity theft cases.

Besides their fraudulent audacity, these perps had two other big things in common. They all lived and/or worked in the Las Vegas area. And criminal litigation involving their alleged deeds transpired within the past year.

Now, as epidemiologists might say, that’s quite a cluster of societal illness cases in a single geographic region. It’s more than enough to ask this basic question: Has Vegas become the fraud capital of America? Continue reading

Smaller Reno area matches Las Vegas in Forbes 400 members

Forbes 400The 42nd edition of the annual Forbes 400 list was published yesterday, and there was some shuffling in the Las Vegas area ranks. Two heavies climbed on, and one fell off. Net result: The number of local swells rose from three to four. But that simply matches the count in much-smaller cross-state rival Reno, which saw an even bigger increase.

The largest local loser, if that’s the correct categorization for someone still worth $2.7 billion, is Phil Ruffin, the 90-year-old owner of Circus Circus, Treasure Island and 50% of the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, shared with Donald J. Trump. According to Forbes, Ruffin’s net worth fell $300 million from $3 billion last year. As it turns out, $2.9 billion is this year’s cut-off.

Returning to the venerable list of the richest Americans are Andrew Cherng, 76, and Peggy Cherng, 75, founder, owners and co-CEOs of the Panda Express restaurant chain. Each ranked No. 366 with net worths of $3.1 billion, or $6.2 billion for the household. Both had been on previous Forbes 400 lists, but not last year’s.

Miriam Adelson, 77, widow of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, remains the richest woman in all of Las Vegas and all of Nevada. With her family she’s ranked No. 24, worth $32.8 billion, up a nifty $4.9 billion from 2022 when she was No. 26.

Rounding out the Las Vegas area contingent, Nancy Walton Laurie, 72, of the Walmart Waltons, ranked No. 88 with a stash of $9.3 billion. That’s five clicks and $1.6 billion better than last year. Continue reading

Las Vegas Review-Journal paid print circulation drops another 12% in year

Las Vegas Review-JournalIn December 2022, I posted here my “Las Vegas predictions for 2023.” Many of them were satirical tongue-in-cheek, like “Elon Musk bans references on Twitter to Las Vegas, but doesn’t give a reason.” But here’s one prediction that was dead serious: “The average paid print circulation of the Las Vegas Review-Journal falls below 40,000, down from 232,000 in 2015 despite a sharp increase in local population.”

In yesterday’s Sunday paper, the RJ published its yearly legally-required-under-oath circulation statement for a period ending in August. The average paid print circulation for the preceding 12 months fell from 45,383 to 39,833.

Whatdayaknow? The 5,550-copy drop amounted to a sharp one-year decline of 12%.

Paid digital subscriptions did not take up the slack, rising only 1,740 from 17,517 in the prior period to to 19,257. So the combined paid print and digital subscription fell 6%, from 62,900 to 59,090. Continue reading

It Didn’t Stay Here: Flooding, casino hacks give Las Vegas a far-flung P.R. bashing

Las VegasThat catchy Las Vegas marketing mantra of recent invention, “What happens here, stays here,” was never true, of course. Readers of this blog are well aware of my view from all the examples I have cited since becoming New To Las Vegas of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened locally. (My running list, It Didn’t Stay Here, can be found nearby.)

But this applies institutionally as well as individually. Thanks to some recent happenings, Summer 2023, which ends tonight at 11:50 p.m. PT, likely can’t go away fast enough for Vegas image-makers. Their success over time at stirring worldwide interest in this remote desert spot full of scorpions leaves them, tracking Shakespeare’s immortal words from Hamlet referencing the results of incompetent bomb-makers: hoist by their own petards.

I just did some Google searches. The two recent instances of Las Vegas-area flooding–the first in mid-August from Hurricane Hilary and the second over Labor Day weekend from the annual monsoon–generated 5.74 million hits. This is an astounding number given that by major world flood disaster standards, the loss of life and damage here, while real in places, rounded to zero, largely thanks to decades of serious flood-control work. The rains materially damaged maybe 0.04% of the metropolitan area, most notably the tiny town of Mount Charleston, 40 miles west of and 5,000 feet above Las Vegas. The recent flooding in Libya killed thousands and wiped out whole villages–most of them little known outside the country, since they don’t have the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority working for them. A Google search produced 13.5 million hits–barely double the Vegas return despite a level of tragedy maybe a million-fold greater.

The computer hacks that hit the Caesars Entertainment and the MGM Resorts International chains, resulting at the latter in long check-in lines and winnings paid out by hand, returned 6.32 million Google hits. This, too, is an amazing number. It seems all those photos and accounts of frustrated pleasure-seekers unable to quickly gamble, drink or indulge in other vices proved irresistible for the editorial gatekeepers of the Internet determined to prove the continuing relevance of the Ten Commandments. Continue reading

With ‘Oppenheimer’ and radiation, Las Vegas stakes its claim to nuclear tourism

nuclear tourism

Movie poster for ‘Oppenheimer’

See update at end of story

I recently saw the movie “Oppenheimer,” about the rise, fall and rise again of J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 to end World War II. Despite its three-hour length (preceded by a half-hour of utterly mindless ads and trailers), it’s a terrific flick. The movie is sure to be up for a bunch of Oscars with a clever screenplay by director Christopher Nolan, and riveting performances by Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer and especially Robert Downey Jr. He steals every single scene he’s in as the villainous arch-nemesis Lewis Strauss.

Much of the action in the movie takes place in the classrooms (and bedrooms) of Berkeley, where Oppenheimer taught; in New Mexico where the bomb was finally developed and test-fired, and in Washington, D.C., where Oppenheimer and Strauss both experienced professional rhapsody and ruin.

Nothing in the film took place in Nevada, where I live. But in many ways, Las Vegas stands to be the biggest beneficiary of what could be called a renewed interest in nuclear tourism. In fact, Sin City has been been feasting on dangerously unleashed atoms in odd and strange ways for more than 70 years, and, unsurprisingly, not always to its advantage. Continue reading