Article Published: “Venomous in the Extreme”

I’ve got a new article published with the Gaming Law Review called “Venomous in the Extreme: Understanding Frank Sinatra’s Acrimonious 1963 Exit from Nevada Gaming.” Here’s a peek:

Today, there are few personalities more intimately connected with the classic era of Las
Vegas casinos than Frank Sinatra. Indeed, the pre-corporate period (1940s to 1966) is
often referred to as the “Rat Pack era,” in reference to the cohort of performers who
coalesced around Sinatra at the Sands in 1960. This was a time, it is imagined, when the
personal touch dominated, when guest satisfaction and table drop mattered more than
corporate profits. The zenith of Rat Pack Vegas might have been getting comped into the
late show at the Copa where Frank, and maybe Dean and Sammy, would be onstage. Sinatra
was more than a singer for hire at the Sands; by 1963, he was (on paper at least) a nine
percent owner of the resort. In 1961, he became the majority owner of Lake Tahoe’s Cal-
Neva Lodge. Looking back, one can’t imagine a more ideal pairing than Frank Sinatra and
Nevada gaming.

But in reality Sinatra had a fraught relationship with the Nevada gaming establishment and
even his Sands co-owners. Tensions between Sinatra and the state’s gaming authorities
boiled over in the summer of 1963, as regulators, fearful of federal pressure, could not
countenance Sinatra’s open embrace of alleged organized crime figures, the most notorious
of whom was Chicago’s Sam Giancana. The confrontation between Nevada gaming and
Sinatra culminated in the singer surrendering his license rather than defend himself
against a complaint alleging that he had permitted numerous gaming violations at the Cal-
Neva,, and that he had “maligned and vilified” members of the Gaming Control Board and
Gaming Commission.2 The conflict—and Sinatra’s ultimate retreat from Nevada gaming—
demonstrates the lengths to which gaming regulators were willing to go to forestall
external pressure that could upset the delicate balance between the sometimes-unsavory
elements on which the industry relied for capital and expertise, and the state’s need for

To read the whole thing, you can visit this page. It is behind a paywall, but you may have institutional access.