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GAMBLER'S DIGEST—FRESH NEW REFERENCE FOR LIST OF CASINOS, TRACKS; DICE ORIGINS BOOK COLORFUL, book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

By Howard Schwartz

There are people in this country who just love to gamble and travel—They do it by RV, car, and plane, and often ask which state has what casinos, riverboats or tracks; what are their address; do they have web site, what games they offer; and often want to know room prices, type of entertainment  or if an RV campground is on site. These  people have specific needs and the  fresher the information the better.

With a great sense of timing comes Gambler's Digest, edited by Dennis Thornton (312 pages, paperbound, $24.95), answering all those questions and the some. Thornton's book offers gambling advice—basics for the most part--introducing the newcomer to the differences between wagering in an Indian casino or on a riverboat before presenting Las Vegas, Atlantic City, the Internet (online) casinos and a handy little section on collecting chips and where to find out more about this intriguing, sometimes profitable hobby.

Beginning on page 90,  he lists casinos from Arizona to West Virginia. On page 187 you'll find the Riverboat listings from Illinois to Washington. Racetracks begin on page 207—again, with location, phone numbers, addresses; the web site; what days they are closed (dark); if slot exist; with similar listings for greyhound tracks; Jai-Alai frontons (primarily in Florida); casino cruises (which are usually in international waters to remain legal). For those who just want to isolate their attention on a particular state, the book focuses on all alphabetical listings in each state with their web site, from Alabama to Wyoming.

Six pages list online casinos in alphabetical order, with phone numbers listed if known; with similar information available for online sportsbooks. A final section indicates what states have what type lotteries. but does not list how to contact anyone for further information.

This 2002 edition was published only a few months ago. It's an excellent timesaver and resource to help you plan a vacation or ask for information.

Ricky Jay, one of the world's most respected close up magicians—he's also an actor (remember the famous poker "tells" scene in the great movie about conmen titled House of Games, where a water pistol turns out to be a vital prop?), has produced a labor of love for anyone who want to know more about the history of dice, their origins, how they're made, how they decay and how people have cheated with them since the ancient days.

The book, titled Dice, Deception, Fate and Rotten Luck (63 pages, hardbound, $12.95) describes how Jay, and a super photographer, Rosamond Purcell concentrate on celluloid dice (the first commercially manufactured plastic), which remain stable for decades, which eventually begin to crack, crystallize and implode.

Jay traces gambling with dice from its earliest days (when dice were called "astragali") and made from the heel bones of hoofed, four-legged animals, to their use in modern times. He reminds us the way these dice were shaved, misspotted and "loaded" by hustlers who truly found an edge.

Clearly this is not a book which describes how to win at craps or any dice game—it is for the historian, the true aficionado of information, often hard to obtain, about how dice and craps evolved throughout history to the game we know it today. It's a perfect mini-coffee-table-type gift item for unique individuals who enjoy unique books.

(The books mentioned here are available from Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call l-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday Pacific time to order, using only MasterCard, VISA or Discover card (no Amex accepted). You may order through the store web site at and view the store's 1,000 books, videos and computer software. You may also call or write and ask for the free 80-page catalog to be sent to you. The store, founded in 1964, is located about two miles from Downtown Las Vegas, and the same distance from where the Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.)