Remembering Our Friend, Dennis Griffin

It is with great sadness that we report that a great friend and an early supporter of The Vegas Tourist has passed away. Author/speaker/mob aficionado Dennis Griffin put his pen down for the last time on Monday, June 21, 2021.

Dennis moved out to Las Vegas after a 20-year career in investigations and law enforcement in New York State.  He was a Madison County Deputy and transferred to the NYS Department of Health to become the Director of Investigations. After retiring in 1994, he fulfilled his ambition of becoming an author of true crime and cold case stories.

He successfully wrote over twenty books that were published. Most of them were mob or organized crime-related. Wait until you hear in the podcast, the story of how he started his writing career! Hint, “Here, hold my beer”

The Podcast

I am not sure of when exactly this podcast was recorded.  All my early notes have vanished.  However, this was recorded right after I had been introduced to him and devoured his book “The Battle for Las Vegas, The law vs the Mob“. A very detailed, very factual read about Las Vegas during its Mob era. If you love true crime stories or the history of Las Vegas, this is your book! So that puts it late 2006, early 2007.

One of his main sources for the book and he talks about here, was a man who knew the Vegas mob very well. In fact, at the time of this interview, Denny was helping to write his life story.  Las Vegas mobster Frank Cullotta – Who we later interviewed as well.

Denny was the second person we ever interviewed on the podcast and was a great man to have on.  This was a fun interview because it was so free-flowing and Dennis was a fun man to be around.  Listening to how he became a writer then deciding to write about the Vegas Mob and then to meet the men involved in the Vegas mob scene is an interesting look down that rabbit hole you could never imagine at the beginning.

As you will hear, he worked well with both the law enforcement side and getting the actual mobster’s real point of view!

We did a follow-up interview with Denny after he moved to Florida. Podcast 204 Catching Up With a Snowbird – Dennis Griffin

Through the years, Denny was a great friend and supporter of The Vegas Tourist and he will be missed.

He is survived by his loving wife of 45 years, Faith Griffin; two daughters, Margaret Carro and Antoinette Mahoney: his step-children, Pamela Ashley and Robert McAree; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter, Kimberly McAree.

 

Listen to The Podcast

 

Books Mentioned

 

 

The New Podcast is up #302

Mondays with Mark - The Vegas Tourist Podcast

It’s always in the little things. Like being consistent.  I never was good at being consistent.  But here we are, almost finished with the first month of the new world order and I have three podcasts up and published.  This one is #302.

Editors Note:  This Podcast was finished and ready to be uploaded on Monday, January 25!  yes, I was on time!! However, our overly priced internet provider (Cox) decided that Monday was the day and night they needed to mess up everyone’s cable access and it was not able to be properly published on Monday!!  My apologies!

In the brief 20 minutes or so of podcast deliciousness, I hit on a few topics.

  • On Monday, February 1st, I want to do the very first TVT Supechat.  Live on YouTube and simulcast anywhere you can watch or listen to YouTube from!
    Open to almost any and all questions about Las Vegas tourism, tours, National parks, things beyond Las Vegas.  You know… The fun things to see and do around here.
    All the goodness and fun times start at 6pm PST 
  • Do you want to know how I spent my birthday weekend?  The wife and I packed up the jeep and went to the 2021 Winter 4×4 Jamboree in Hurricane, Ut (close to St George, UT) and enjoyed a little more freedom from the lockdowns we have here in Nevada and not as bad as it is in California.  We had fun!
  • While there, we went on a solo adventure up to Beaver, UT to The Creamery!  Delicious!
  • As well, we were told to go check out the petroglyphs.  Prehistoric writings on the rocks from before modern man arrive.  And we saw more effects of Climate Change before the invention of the automobile!  Imagine that!!
  • Finally, we ended this past weekend by taking the GrandKids to The Lion Habitat Ranch. Home to the original MGM Grand Lions!

Mondays with Mark – The Vegas Tourist Podcast #301

Highlights of Mondays with Mark
The Vegas Tourist Podcast  #301

As we always learn at times like this, Las Vegas is never “down” for long. it is always growing always changing. As much as our king/governor keeps trying to kill it off, Las Vegas is still here.

  • Tim Arnold – Pinball hall of fame founder (owner) released a short video asking for donations to help complete the construction of the new location on Las Vegas Blvd, just north of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. ( Here is Facebook link to video)

The loss of two Las Vegas Icons.

  • Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried and Roy passed away
  • Sheldon Adelson, the man behind the Vegentian Resort, Passed away
  • How a tour guest convinced me of the merits of the Seminole Indians buying the Venetian and Palazzo would be good for the Hard Rock Brand and for Las Vegas.

 

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Mondays with Mark – The Vegas Tourist Podcast #300

What is on Podcast Episode #300

Edited script/topics for Monday’s with Mark – The Vegas Tourist Podcast episode 33

(This post is being updated and edited)

Why is it called episode number 300 if I’m redoing the show? Because it’s not starting over.  I first started the podcast with a friend, Sazzy. When we parted ways, I restarted the podcast in a different format so I started with the number 200. Did this for easy reference when you’re talking about a specific show or topic.

When I figured it wasn’t working for me, I started to reformulate the show. As I was working on updating the website for social media feeds, needing to be more interactive as we move into the new social media world of the post-pandemic tourism world.
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So I look at what is being talked about on Facebook groups what it’s been posted there as well as what is happening over at TheVegasTourist.com and our YouTube channels.

Doing t this way, I figure it will help hold me to a schedule.  Hold me accountable for getting this show created, getting the topics picked out, and getting it posted each and almost every Monday.

I’m not wanting to get burned out so I may miss one or two here and there. Thankfully I will be having just some friends of the show helping out to fill the voids in the gaps.

So there you have it.  Giving you a peek into the new direction for this podcast. I hope you are subscribed and I hope you are ready for a wonderful journey on this new format.

My thoughts and predictions for 2020. I fed this off of what Scott over at Vital Vegas was posting on his blog.

First up in the New Year is Virgin hotels.  The old Hard Rock.  It was scheduled to open in January of 2021. That has now been postponed. I’m figuring it will open this summer.

What they need is for Virgin Airlines to start flying in here from Great Britain and England. They said they will start that in June or July of 2021.

Their primary client to Vegas and to America are those who buy what we used to call “Junkets”.  The package tours. Hotel, food, and shows for on low price.

 
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Now on to the Hard Rock. After they closed, the Seminole Indians, owner of the Hard Rock Brand, are supposedly looking to return.

I am going to stand by my prediction that by the end of this year they will either have acquired it or they will announce that they have acquired the shuttered Palms Resort.

The Palms is like the perfect place to reintroduce the Hard Rock to the Las Vegas Market. Recently updated and the current owner, Station Casinos has made it clear they have no intentions of reopening it.

So I figure they are going to want to sell it and who better to buy it hard rock

Next up, the Tropicana Resort.  It truly breaks my heart to say this but all indications show me that the Trop the Tropicana is going to be gone by the end of 2021 physically gone

I know I said you know it’s been on every deathwatch wish for as long as I’ve been here and it’s still there with everything going on South End of the strip the fact that everybody’s going broke there.

But there’s going to be a Resurgence there I just see that it is that it’s one of those situations where the land is more valuable without the structures on it I see it just going away, being shut down maybe not imploded in 2021 but at least it’s going to be gone by the end of 2021

Seems a lot of new interest is happening at the South End of the strip and that is going to bring in some new money, some new some new attention, and the Tropicana is at a killer location.  But they’re going to want the land empty so you’re going away at the end of 2021
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Just a few blocks down, before the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, you have the all-new home to the Pinball Hall of Fame getting closed in.  A much-improved location compared to its current location about a mile off the Strip on Tropicana Blvd.

The new location will be like 10 times larger than the current warehouse-style building it is in.

Look for a lot of new changes on the Strip because of the recent Eldorado/Caesar deal.

Eldorado Gaming bought Caesars. Eldorado is focused on gaming. So they need to unload a few of the Caesar properties that are not in that niche.  As well, they need to raise some cash to pay down the debt.

So look for Planet Hollywood, maybe the Paris to be sold off. Bally’s I think will become the new Horseshoe Casino Resort and new home to the World Series of Poker.

Spinning off some of these smaller ones will hopefully bring in some new blood on the Strip, some new competition as well as some new marketing.

Much like when the Cosmopolitan went bankrupt and the bank took it over. They didn’t know what they were doing, so they experimented with a new ideas. New ways to reach the customer and they were successful at it.

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Onto the Madison Square Garden Sphere, the Concert Hall going in behind the Venetian that is going to be revolutionary. Another game-changer for the world of entertainment here in Vegas.  MSG, or Madison Square Garden will compete head-to-head with Ticketmaster/Axes Entertainment. The company currently handling a majority of the ticketed venues on the Strip.

I see Madison Square Garden, just like El Dorado/Caesars is going to bring in a spark of creativity, a spark of competition, and it’s going to up the game for entertainment here in Las Vegas.

So NO! I don’t think they’re going to abandon that project. There’s just too much opportunity there/ Too much money to be made sitting there. So I don’t see them leaving.

 

New Year’s Photo Shoot

Our good friend Tom Donoghue, @photomanlv, was going to shoot the only approved (?) fireworks on the Las Vegas tourist corridor which was at the Plaza Casino Resort.  Tom asked me to go along with him because he needed help carrying and setting up equipment.

Seriously? Asking me? A movie buff who loves the movie Back to the Future!

We were going to be on top of what was Biff’s Pleasure Palace in the second movie!  The Plaza was used for those scenes in the movie.

So, Marty McFly, eat your heart out!
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I was on top of the Plaza on New Year’s Eve. It was cold and windy up there. Tom decided not to shoot from up there, but not before I could get the picture of the iconic neon sign of the Plaza and the new signage of the modern Circa Resort opening across the street.

Tom decided it would be better if we were to shoot the fireworks from the ground.  The Plaza has an outdoor arena on the south end of the property. We would capture the fireworks as well as the signage of the Plaza and the Circa Resorts. The Golden Nugget even got into a few of them!

Kudo’s to the Staff at The Plaza Casino and Resort

I’ve got to give really big Kudos, really, really big kudos to the Plaza.  To their security team.  Being there New Year’s Eve. 10:30 at night with all of the chaos, all the craziness of everything happening.  The Plaza security team went out of their way to do whatever they could to make sure we got what we needed to get.

And so I just wanted to say thank you to them all. I wanted to say thank you to the management at the Plaza for inviting us.

For everything going on, I was not expecting that kind of treatment.  As we were walking through the casino, as we were doing what it is that that we needed to do, I was watching how friendly and helpful they were as well to the guests around the gaming floor of the resort.

And it was nice to see that that level of service is still alive and well in Las Vegas.  So Again, The Plaza, my thumbs up to the staff.  You got a really good team there.  I thank you very much for your hospitality.

And yes we got some awesome photos and I hope that you enjoyed them!
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So now about what opened across the street from the Plaza. Circa Resort.

Circa is very adult-focused, primarily on sports.  Much like when the Mirage opened, I look at Circa as the game-changer, especially for downtown.

When Steve Wynn came in town and he took over the Golden Nugget.  He sparked the rejuvenation of downtown that gave us the Fremont Street Experience.

Hoping Circa can do that again for downtown.  Show the others down there the need to step up to the plate, clean up your act.  Hopefully, get rid of the buskers or whatever you want to call them.  That whole experience needs to change and I hope Circa is that spark.

Speaking of Game Changers.  Of course, on the Strip, that would be Resorts World which sits where the Stardust used to sit.

Like I wrote on my blog, this is the state-of-the-art all the way around and it is opening this summer.

Former MGM CEO Scott Siliba is Resorts World top man here.  He has eight years of MGM culture burned into his mind and I see that as a problem. He needs to shake that MGM “Stockholders first” mentality out of his mind and don’t see that as an easy thing to happen.
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I hope I’m wrong on this but I just don’t see him easily stepping out of that mind frame and being the new Steve Wynn where you put the guest experience first.  Please the guest, the guest spends money and the stockholders benefit from that.

Las Vegas Reborn

I say as much pain as Vegas is going through right now, Vegas has never been a town that stayed down very long.  The history of Las Vegas is filled with the town being down then suddenly getting a second life and coming back bigger, better and different.

From our early mining days and railroad days and the Great Depression.  Hoover Dam.  Every time Vegas fell on its face, this town has reinvented itself.

I’ve always said that Vegas is a universe all to itself. I always believed that.  People come here because this is where you come for Second Chances and New Opportunities.  Because we don’t hold your history against you.  Here, you really don’t have a history per se.

Las Vegas has always been that wild west where entrepreneurs are welcome here.  Come here and try something new.  That’s how Vegas has always worked and I see it happening again.

When I got here in 2001 and I’d talk to the people I met who came out here from other places to try something new. They wanted that second chance that new beginning.  Las Vegas was the place that would give them

Vegas gives you that opportunity. Show up, work your idea, make it happen and in a few years, you are successful.

See my interview with Smilin Joe
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Las Vegas has always been one of those towns that will give you more than what you put in.  Las Vegas will give you the opportunity to succeed and give you the opportunity to fail.

This is a town, this is a state actually, is not nice to people who don’t want to put in the effort.  You come here, you want something.  It’s here.

Las Vegas has it. It might not be in the form that you’re expecting, but it is here and you have to dig down deep into who you are and find it.

That’s what is happening in 2021. Las Vegas is not really down or if we are, it’s not going to last very long and in 2021 I see a New Vegas emerging.

I don’t know what it’s going to be. I don’t know what it’s going to be focused on yet.  I mean we went from a railroad town to a gambling town to an entertainment town. I don’t know what comes after that.

I think I’m going to have to really look at who it is right now that is profiting from this virus or whatever you want to call it.

Vegas is offering entrepreneurs, technology.  We are ahead of the technology curve. For where this little town is, we have more technology here than we know what to do with because we’re not used to having it.

That opens the doors to the entrepreneurs who dare to see that opportunity.  Examples like Switch, Zappo’s. Mom and Pop technology companies are thriving here we have this work at home revolution for those who don’t have to work at home so they’re coming to Vegas to work.

That is opening a brand new market that nobody has ever really explored deeply before now.  Like those before us.  The ones who made this into a gaming mecca.

It’s how we became a gambling Mecca.  You have this mom-and-pop entrepreneur’s come out here they set up shop.  They created something or they saw something that somebody else didn’t know and they took over a failed operation.
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I always come back to Ralph Engelstad.  Ralph came out here from my neck of the woods, Minnesota, South Dakota.  He set up shop as a carpenter.

He started a construction company.  He helped build a small Casino for someone.  If my mind serves me correctly on the story,  the guy opens the casino but couldn’t pay Ralph, so he just signed over the property to Ralph.

Ralph saw the opportunities at the previous owner did not and we ended up with the Imperial Palace. Ralph became a multi-millionaire.  When he died his wife sells out to Caesars. Caesars turns it into the Linq

Las Vegas is filled with thousands of stories like that.  People who came out here to do one thing ended up doing something else and the next thing you know they are very successful, they are very well respected and is making more money than they never knew what to do with.

As Vegas, we are in a funk,  we’re in downward.  We are not that excited “happy go lucky” town we were a year ago.  But a year from now it’s going to be completely different and it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to have a different vibe.

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Vegas never quits reinventing itself.  Las Vegas will be back on top sooner rather than later and I am going to be there. I hope you are here to join me!

I am Mark Anthony. I am known as The Vegas Tourist.

If you have a comment or question, leave them at the website The Vegas Tourist or on one of our social media feeds @thevegastourist.

“Like” this podcast.  Subscribe to it and I will guarantee you there’s going to be more of them coming soon!

 

259 – Welcome Back Las Vegas (video)

Yes! We have a new podcast up finally.  Episode #259, Welcome Back Las Vegas.  This is not about welcoming YOU back to Las Vegas. It’s more about a few things that are showing us that Las Vegas is coming back and getting ready to welcome you back in full force!  We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it doesn’t look like it’s another train!!

[arve url=”https://youtu.be/Z3_QfZSBAH8″ /]

Crime in Las Vegas?

First.  We need to talk about the supposed “rise” in crime.  Yes, crime in Las Vegas is up.  It’s up a whopping 4%!  That’s it.  About what you get in other cities of almost 3 million people.  The reason for the crime wave being blasted across the world news is that its Vegas!  They like to talk about Vegas and without all the crowds, you are seeing the dreads of humanity you normally didn’t see because you were too busy looking at all the shiny lights and being moved along by all the people on the streets.

Nothing has really changed in that area, you just need to be aware of your surroundings and don’t let your guard down. Just like you would be walking the streets of any other major city! Here, the crowds are gone so people who come here are taking in all the sights they normally can’t see because of the crowds and enjoying the open spaces. So the criminals are easier to spot and get into trouble…
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The criminals are in some ways like the rest of us. They are tired of being locked up in our homes.  They are unemployed, frustrated, and looking for some release.  They have a chance to escape their captivity in Arizona or California, and like you and me, you want to come to Las Vegas for some action.  Wanting to get out, get some movement going, and finding other people to associate with. so they, unfortunately, they hit Las Vegas!

Law Enforcement, Metro, as well as hotel security is being extra vigilant right now. But the resorts are not back to full staff yet, so things are a little more obvious than they were before. The media is looking for some bad news to report and they are finding the pickings a little slim if they want to stay away from politics.  Good or bad, Las Vegas always makes a great headline..

Elvis Returns!

Maybe not the real Elvis.  However, Big Elvis, aka Pete Vallee, is pretty close to the original!  Big Elvis is back and that’s the true sign that life on the Strip is getting back to whatever the new normal will be.  The first regular musical show to reopen and he is back at the Piano Bar at Harrah’s.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

Circa Comes to Life

The all-new resort opens October 28 in Downtown las Vegas!  Adults Only, six pools open all year long! The world’s largest sportsbook!  And of course, home to Vegas Vickie!

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