Suburban Xanadu: The Casino Resort on the Las Vegas Strip and Beyond. New York: Routledge, 2003.
This is a new look at the rise of the casino industry, one of the most remarkable developments in late 20th century America. Within a generation, casinos went from near-outlaw businesses to thriving, state-sanctioned ones. Suburban Xanadu clearly and emphatically tells the story of how this happened, doing, in the words of casino mogul Steve Wynn, a “great job” of explaining casinos’ popularity.
This isn’t the casino history you’ve seen on TV. For too long, academic historians have shied away from seriously investigating the social, cultural, and political forces that created today’s casino industry. Finally, someone has crafted an artful, accessible historical analysis of the rise and popularity of legal casino gaming in the United States.
Crime, corruption, exoticism, escapism, family entertainment, and egalitarianism-all under one roof. The lures and promises of the casino have evolved dramatically over the course of the past century, and the suburban oasis of today’s casino resort is hardly the den of iniquity castigated by anti-gambling critics or romanticized by casino operators. Today, we live in a veritable “casino archipelago” in which most Americans live within a four-hour drive of one of the all-inclusive hotel/restaurant/and entertainment complexes. So what are the forces behind this phenomenon?
Tracing the evolution of the casino resort from its roots in the post-World War II domestic urban exodus, Suburban Xanadu argues that the self-contained casino resort arose at precisely the right historical moment. Having shuttled and shuttered gambling and its social problems away from cities and into the more sanitized cultural and physical landscape of middle America, the casino resort evolved into a quintessential American institution. Remarkably detailed and entertaining, Suburban Xanadu tells us a great deal about popular leisure in America and why the suburban ideal has become so dominant in our social life.
An explanatory note from the author:
Why is the cover pink? I hear that question almost week. In truth, as a novice writer I had no real creative control over the book’s presentation. Having never designed a book, that’s actually a good thing. I think that the people at Routledge did a great job of putting the book together: I love the fonts and the presentation, particularly in the paperback. The hardcover, as everyone tells me, really deserves a dust jacket.
As you’ve seen, Suburban Xanadu is flamboyantly pink. This was not my decision, and I was about 2800 miles away from the meeting where that decision was made: I have absolutely no idea why the people in charge chose that color. I did provide the cover photo, from UNLV Special Collections’ immense archive.
As I tell people, I guess they figured I was confident enough in my masculinity to have a book with a pink cover. Since they never met me, I don’t know how they figured that out.
Anyway, if you’re a man, carrying this book around is a great way to say, “I’m confident, I’m reading a pink paperback, and I’ll physically intimidate anyone who’s got a problem with that.” If you’re a woman, it makes a great fashion accessory.
But you shouldn’t buy the book for its surface aesthetics; rather, start reading, and enjoy an honest, accurate historical account of the rise of the commercial casino industry in the United States.
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