At the Pen Festival 2010

At the Pen Festival 2010
© PEN American Center/Susan Horgan. All rights reserved. Please contact media@pen.org for usage and rights.

September 23, 2013

10 Tips for Publishing a Novel

(I'm posting this on all of my blogs)

Going through my files, I found this list from my WebTV Webpage. Remember WebTV? It had to be written somewhere around 2000-2002.

Man, I was cocky back then. And sharp. Enjoy.

_____________________________________

So you want to publish your book . . . here's a list of 10 things you ought to do.



1) Sit down and write the book.

That's right. Sit down and write. Lots of writers talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk. They want to live a writer's lifestyle (whatever that is). They are attracted to the writer's celebrity status (whatever they think that is). They are eager to puff their egos by seeing their names on a book jacket on a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble (and yes, that does puff one's ego). They desire to introduce themselves to strangers with a firm handshake and a hearty--"My name is FILLINTHEBLANK, and I am a writer." Cut the crap. Stop posing and get that book written. I have worked with too many clients (when I was editing books) that would hand me six or seven typed pages and say, "Here's where I've gotten so far, Tell me what you think of it." My answer would invariably be: "I think you are a poser. Go write. Come back when this has grown up." Writers write. And publishers publish manuscripts that are longer than six pages. Spend an hour every morning writing two pages. In six months you'll have your first book. It may not be great, but at least it will be finished and we can talk about it.

2) Copyright the book.

Now a few years ago, I would never have wasted your time or mine with this piece of advice. In fact, if you had asked me a question about copyrights back then, I would have told you not to worry about it. "No one is going to steal your book," I would have told you. "If a publisher really likes your writing, they won't steal it. The work is like the golden egg, but you are the goose that lays the egg. If they steal the work, they sell one book. But if they sign you as one of their writers, they can sell a series of your books. That makes more sense." Recent personal events, however, have demonstrated that people do steal a writer's work. Protect yourself. Enough on this.

3) Get another set of eyes to read the book.

Join a writer's group or sign up for a creative writing class at a local college and have someone competent and objective read your book. Listen to their advice on what works and what does not work with your book. As the author, you do not have to take all of their advice, but you should listen to it. This helps you to gauge how an audience will read your book--such information can be valuable when you make later decisions on what to cut and what not to cut. Writing groups and creative writing classes are also good places to help you tighten your prose and fix your grammar and clean up your typos. As writers, we often have a vision of the book in our heads that is quite different from the actual book that is written on the pages. We become blind to our mistakes. Worse yet, our hubris makes us unwilling to cut dull and longwinded passages. So get your book read by an objective reader or two and leave your ego at the door.

4) Find twenty to twenty-five publishers who might be interested in publishing your book. There are a couple ways of doing this. The first way is to be a good reader. If you are a good reader, then you already have many books on your shelves that are similar to the one you have written. Who published these books? Start writing that list. The second way is to go to a bookstore and pick up books that are similar to yours. Who published these books? You can go online and do the same thing. You can also go to a very important book called the THE NOVEL AND SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET and do the same thing. This is your target list.

5) Arrange the target list in order of most prestigious to least prestigious.

When you start sending out your manuscript you will begin with the publishers at the top of the list and work your way down. In the words of author Lynne Barrett told us in grad school, "Your manuscript, like water, will find its own level."

6) Write a MEETS hook.

Think about your book. Think about two other books (or movies) that it is similar to. Then write your MEETS hook. Your MEETS hook should sound something like this: "My novel, CHARITY GARNER'S BOYS is a story of rage, temptation, gangsters, and surprising compassion set in the high plateaus of depression era South Dakota [. . . include a brief description of the book . . . then finish with . . .] It is like BONNIE AND CLYDE meets THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.

7) Get an agent.

Once you have tightened up the book, gotten your target list together, and written your MEETS hook, it is time to get an agent. Why do you need an agent? Because you need a friend and guide in the publishing world. Yes, there are writers who have gotten published without agents. They are not the rule--they are lucky. An agent will get 15% commission on your book, and he/she will be worth every penny of that commission. How do you get an agent? There are several ways to do this. Send out query letters to agents listed online or in books such as THE NOVEL AND SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET (there are many good books and online sources that will guide you through query-letter writing--do consult them). Ask another writer to introduce you to his/her agent--but expect to be turned down. Writers guard their agents jealously. Go to writer's conferences and take a course with the agent (s), who will read your manuscript and maybe sign you up for representation. Note: It is a good idea to go to writer's conferences regardless. Many authors have gotten their books sold or represented through contacts made at writer's conferences.

8) Beware of agents who charge a fee. Usually, agents do not charge a fee. Agents take 15% commission on advances and book sales. Think about it: if an agent charged even, say, $25 per manuscript as a reading fee, he/she could make a pretty decent living without ever having to do the hard work of actually selling a book. There are a few, very few, big name New York agents that charge a small fee--if you get a chance to work with one of these, pay the fee by all means! Beware of agents who solicit you--most reputable agents have more clients than they can handle. If an agent contacts you via phone, letter, or email, ask for a list of published clients. There are many writers out there eager to get into print and they are easy prey for predators posing as agents and editors.

9) Help your agent to sell your book.

Once you have gotten your agent, give her/him your plan for selling your book: the target list of publishers, your MEETS hook. The agent will likely modify the target list based on her/his contacts in the publishing world. The agent may also modify your MEETS a bit. The agent will also want to know what audience you wrote the book for: age, race, gender, level of education. You should be able to answer all of these questions. It is also likely that the agent, upon signing you up, already has a few publishers in mind for your book, publishers that he/she has worked with in the past and who are looking for a book such as yours. If this is the case, you have hit the jackpot. Just sit on your hands, and let your agent do his/her job.

10) If All Else Fails . . .

Should I self-publish? Maybe--but hold on there a minute. Did you join a writer's group? Did you leave your ego at the door? Did you edit and then really edit your book? Did you go to a writer's conference and hobnob with agents and publishers? Maybe you should enter your book in a few contests. Try that. If all else has failed, then maybe you should self-publish. Self-publishing is not a bad idea if you are the right kind of person. I hope to build another link in a month or two that addresses the issue of self-publishing with a greater thoroughness. For now, let me leave with you with a few tips. 1) Get a company that is inexpensive. The self-publishing companies that charge $5000 provide roughly the same quality service as the ones that are $750, $450, $250, or free. 2) Make sure your book is copyrighted. 3) Don't purchase any of their add-on services. They are a waste of time and if you need them, you can always get them cheaper at Office Depot. 4) If you plan to get rich on the book, prepare to have a professional marketing plan; in fact, you need to hire a professional publicist. This will cost you money, but it will be worth it. 5) Be prepared to travel to sell your book. 6) Be prepared to make deals with bookstore managers to stock your books. 7) Be prepared to work.

I have more to say on this, and I will on a new link.

Good luck

--Preston

September 6, 2013

Kids in Car While So-Called Guardians in Casino Gambling

Gambling makes you irresponsible, and you both are fined $1000.

Fair punishment, huh? I don't think so. Punishment enough to discourage reprehensible behavior? Absolutely not.

For a gambler it is a mere nuisance. Another trip to the ATM machine at most. For a gambler, it's the price of doing business.

Let's see now, if the sisters have but a modest gambling habit, they're probably not unused to blowing a couple hundred bucks per gambling binge. And if they are complete degenerates--which the evidence implies they are--a thousand dollars a day is an average binge. It doesn't hurt a degenerate as much as non gamblers might think.

A degenerate gambler by his nature has thicker skin than that or he's not a degenerate.

Those kids are fortunate that the sisters took the time to see that the air conditioner was left on.

Read my book ALL OR NOTHING, and you'll see what I mean.

________________________________________

"South Florida Sisters Gambled in Casino While Kids Sat in Running Car"

Two South Florida sisters are facing child neglect charges after authorities say they left their young children in a car while they gambled inside a casino.

Malory Pierre, 27, and Romanie Pierre, 31, are both facing four counts of child neglect without great harm after they left four children inside a running car outside the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach Sunday, according to an arrest report read by Broward Circuit Judge John Hurley in court Monday.

Both were ordered held on $5,000 bond and it was unknown whether they have attorneys.

According to Hurley, the sisters took the car full of children -- ages 8, 5, 4 and 2 -- to the casino Sunday evening and left them in the running car while they went inside.

A woman noticed the kids were in the car between 20 and 30 minutes and called 911. Police arrived and had to have one of the kids unlock the car, Hurley said.

The oldest child told officers that their step-mom and her sister went inside and left them there. When officers found and questioned the sisters, one of them said she had gone inside to use the bathroom, while the other said she went inside to ask a question, Hurley said.

But after a brief investigation, police discovered the two had gone inside and were gambling and had checked in at the player's club and were playing slots, Hurley said.

Hurley ordered the two to stay out of casinos if they post bond, but wavered when asked by prosecutors to order them to have no contact with the children.

"It's inappropriate behavior there's no doubt about it, however, I'm not sure that, there's just a part of me that says it may be going too far to keep them away from the children," Hurley said.

The sisters said the children were at home with their mother, and Hurley decided against keeping them away from their kids.

"Hopefully these two have been scared and have been put in jail and maybe shocked into coming to their senses that what they have allegedly done is extremely poor judgment and I'm not going to take their kids away," he said.

August 27, 2013

Michael Jordan Is Probably the Greatest Gambler in NBA History

I found this online.

_______________________________

GAMBLING AND THE ALPHA DOG

Editor's note: This article appears in the June 19 issue of ESPN The Magazine.



There's a famous gambling story about Michael Jordan. Actually, there are many famous gambling stories about MJ, but this one is my favorite. Back before NBA teams had grasped the rejuvenating power of chartered airplanes, the Bulls were waiting for their luggage in Portland when Jordan slapped a hunny on the conveyor belt: I bet you my bags come out first. Jumping on the incredibly favorable odds, nine teammates happily accepted the wager. Sure enough, Jordan's bags led the rollout. He cackled with delight as he collected everyone's money.

What none of the suckers knew, and what MJ presumably never told them, was that he had bribed a baggage handler to help him out. He didn't pocket much (a few hundred bucks), and considering his net worth hovered around nine figures at the time, it's safe to say he didn't need the extra cash. But that didn't matter. There was a chance at an easy score, and he took it.

Yes, the most cutthroat athlete of his generation loves to gamble, and even more than that, he loves to win. Should you be surprised? The qualities that once made MJ transcendent on the court -- his legendary hypercompetitiveness, superhuman stamina, larger-than-life swagger and unwavering confidence -- make the gambling crossover an obvious choice.

Now, not all top-tier superstars have the bug. Word is that Larry Bird, a renowned cheapskate, wagered only on postpractice shooting contests (which he was predisposed to win because, after all, he was Larry Bird). But Jordan was fundamentally more reckless. He played high-stakes golf -- you may remember he once settled a seven-figure debt for $300,000 with a grateful hustler who felt compelled to write a book about it -- and made at least one ill-advised trek to Atlantic City between playoff games.

I'm the last person to think that MJ's hobby makes him as unsavory as a Bada Bing! customer. Too much has been made of his gambling "problem" over the years. Take Michael Leahy's mean-spirited book, in which he salaciously recounts a 2001 blackjack blowout at the Mohegan Sun that included Rip Hamilton and Antoine Walker. Leahy made the night seem nefarious, describing how MJ fell behind by half a million before turning things around in the wee hours by playing two hands at a time, jabbering loudly and confidently all the while, working the dealer as if he were Bryon Russell. I happened to be there as well, plugging away at a $15 table about 25 feet away. What I witnessed was just three friends letting off steam.

Everything's relative. Last summer, at my buddy Hopper's bachelor party, we played blackjack at Mandalay Bay until 8:45 a.m., one of those blurry marathons where you wake up the following afternoon, heave a sigh of relief when you see your wallet ("I didn't lose it!") then scream happily when you glimpse the wad of hundreds inside. Women had flirted with us, pit bosses had sauntered over to "cool" us down. We hadn't played for 25 G's a hand, but we had risked a higher percentage of our net worth than MJ did in his Mohegan cameo, that's for sure. It was my single best run in Vegas -- and I didn't have Leahy standing nearby jotting down unflattering notes.

We love to pick athletes apart, but what's the big deal about their gambling so much? Look what happened last month. First, John Daly says he lost $50-60 million at the slots, and it becomes a national story. Then, Charles Barkley defends Daly, before casually revealing that he's squandered $10 million in casinos over the years. Of course, the media blows up that revelation and excoriates him for being so irresponsible. What's irresponsible about losing millions when you have more money than you'll ever need? Playing with the house's money is a way of life for these guys.

Watch an episode of MTV Cribs: For many celebs, it's not just about making it; it's about embracing the excess of making it. It's about owning the biggest mansion and the most cars, being able to buy anything without someone saying, "Wait, you can't afford that." It's about walking into a Ferrari dealership and having the salesman keel over with glee. It's about buying a yacht even though you don't particularly like water. It's about wearing a different suit after every game. It's about playing Madden on a 100-inch plasma instead of a 40-inch flatscreen. High-stakes gambling is just another piece of the excess package.

Casinos actually hold an allure beyond the action. With their elite gaming areas and impeccable security, they are some of the few public places where athletes can unwind without being badgered by starstruck fans. Call it an amusement park for the privileged, a place to let loose and be rich, where competitive juices can get a victimless workout. For a big-stakes guy, every night starts with the same vow: "I'm gonna kick ass." If he gets down, he just knows he'll win it back. If he's up, he wants to be up more. If he didn't possess this drive at the tables, he'd be one of those Rudy Gay types on the court, a player who drifts during games and doesn't seem to care if his team wins or loses. Competitiveness isn't a switch you can turn on and off.

That's why these guys bring PlayStations on the road, why card games never end on charters, why who-can-make-the-first-halfcourt-shot contests break out at the end of every NBA practice. David Stern says he's dead set against moving a team to Vegas because he's afraid players will wager on NBA games. But if they want to, they can easily do that online. What he should be afraid of is that they'd be fodder for the high-roller hustlers in Vegas who make a killing in poker games and golf matches with overcompetitive multimillionaires.

History tells us there's no shortage of those: Isiah Thomas played in high-stakes craps games at Thomas Hearns' house; Jerry Stackhouse decked Christian Laettner during a poker game on the Pistons' charter; Phil Mickelson won tens of thousands on World Series and Super Bowl bets as part of a consortium; Charles Oakley publicly threatened Tyrone Hill for being slow to settle a dice debt. For every story that leaks out, dozens of others are almost surely buried.

But no one can convince me it's a bad thing. There has been a negative link between gambling and sports dating back 100 years, back when heavyweight title fights and the World Series were fixed. But that is a lot less likely to happen now: Professional athletes earn too much to be swayed by fixers. Still, fans are brainwashed to believe gambling is dangerous, that it's a potential gateway to self-destruction, that it can destroy your life if you aren't careful, that everyone is a few errant bets away from a lifetime of depressing Gamblers Anonymous meetings. Watch any TV show in which a character starts betting, and almost always, he loses control before the big "intervention" episode. Gambling is bad. Or so we're told.

And then you see the 400 different poker shows on cable, gambling spreads in every newspaper, March Madness pools in every office, websites and magazines that have made a killing on the fantasy boom, scratch cards and lottery machines in every convenience store ... Ummm, none of this is gambling? We refer to point spreads all the time -- the Steelers are favored by six -- and naïvely pretend they happen in some sort of vacuum, that there's no correlation between the numbers and actual wagering. Everyone participates in this hypocrisy. It's a more complicated version of the four college roomies who stand around a keg on a Friday night and slurringly argue about whether one of their other pals has a drinking problem.

Gambling is a part of sports; we may as well accept it. Maybe there are ways teams can actually use it to their advantage. For instance, Hopper once played blackjack in Vegas with Norv Turner, who spinelessly kept staying on 16 until my belligerent friend drove him from the table with a biting remark. After hearing that story, I thought Turner's coaching career made infinitely more sense. What football player would be inspired by a coach who stays on 16?

If I owned a team, I'd insist on playing poker or blackjack with any coach or manager I was thinking of hiring. During Jordan's Mohegan Sun all-nighter, I distinctly recall being impressed that Hamilton -- still a young player who hadn't done much -- looked totally comfortable in the high-stakes section with MJ. Good sign for his future, I remember thinking. That poise made him one of the crucial players on the world-champion Pistons. Coincidence? You tell me.

As for Jordan, if I owned the Bulls and found out my franchise guy -- the dude cashing my seven-figure checks every two weeks, the dude responsible for filling my stadium eight months per season, the dude who would make or break my dream of holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy -- was bribing baggage handlers just to win a few hundred bucks ... well, the news would warm my heart. That's what alpha dogs do: They compete, they dominate, they don't know when to quit. The surprise isn't that there are dozens of gambling stories about Michael Jordan. The surprise would be if there weren't any.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.

Gambling Tips: Top Ten Black Jack Mistakes

Hmmmmmmmmm. I should have read this BEFORE I stopped gambling.

__________________________

Top Ten Blackjack Mistakes

By Frank Michaels, Copyright © 2006

It’s human nature to assume we’re pretty good at what we do. Accordingly, many people sit down at a blackjack table and assume their losses are due to bad luck, rather than their own bad play.

Double Check your game with the below Top Ten Blackjack Mistakes, and see if there is still room for improvement:

1. Playing by “Feel”. I could understand this mistake better if you were Jeanne Dixon or had a job working for a cold case police taskforce. At least your psychic powers might have some use there. But at a blackjack table, it is a big mistake to play “because it feels right.” We’ve all seen the freshman blackjack player who announces “I’m splitting these tens because I feel it’s the right thing to do.” or the guys who says “I know the ‘book’ says no, but I’ve got a feeling.” If you want to make more money, stop playing by feel, and start playing exactly according to your blackjack strategy card.

2. Taking Insurance. We’ve all seen the articles that tell us, statistically speaking, not to take insurance. We’ll make more money in the long run, they say, if we never take it. So why do we sit there and accept even money? It’s that old dealer admonition that “Insurance is the only sure bet in blackjack.” The dealer was wrong then, and he’s wrong now. Only if you’re a card counter who knows the precise count on the deck, should you even think about it. If you’re just another BJ player, fuggedaboudit!

3. Not Doubling Down Enough. Blackjack is an interesting mix of odds and formulas. Sometimes, after receiving your cards, you must play conservatively to avoid more losses. But sometimes, the right play is to double your bet. Why? When you have an A-2 against the dealer’s 5 upcard, (and other double-down situations, too) you’ve got a nice statistical edge to win the hand. Take the plunge! Double your bet and take what’s rightfully yours. If you’re too timid to take this advantage, go back to the nickel slots. Or better yet, study your basic strategy card and memorize every double-down combination of cards. It will time well spent.

4. I’m Due. No, you’re not. If you’ve been losing, trust me, you can lose again. And if you’ve been winning, it can go on that way. It is human nature to assume the tides of change will turn on the next hand, based on the last several hands. The previous hand history does not have any influence upon the outcome of the next hand. Got it? Your odds are unchanged, whether you’ve just had 16 winners in a row, or 16 losers. The next hand is unaffected by history. (By the way, I’m not taking about card counting here. Card counters monitor a shoe’s odds on an ongoing basis using advanced statistical techniques.)

5. Bad Table Position. Sit anywhere at the table. Third base is the same as first base. If you’re not a card counter, it won’t affect your earnings either way. We often hear people talking about a third base player that “made lots of poor decisions, and made me lose.” Get over it. That same third base player might save you from losses with his erratic play, too.

6. Never Surrender. So you never surrender? Too bad. There are times when you should cut your losses. Over the long run, some surrenders are a good call. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, study your blackjack strategy card, and reap the benefits.

7. I’m Ashamed to Bring My Strategy Card. I know you don’t gamble every day, and memorizing a chart is boring. OK, I can accept that. But why do you think it’s un-cool to bring your blackjack strategy card to the table? Did you know almost every casino allows you to consult with your card? Did you know they sell strategy cards in the casino gift shops? Did you know your play will instantly improve to “Pro” status if you use it? Stop being ashamed and make more money. Bring the card and do what it says to do.

8. I’ve Got A Great System Get this through your head: There is no winning system available in blackjack except card counting. There is no winning system available in blackjack except card counting. There is no winning system available in blackjack except card counting. Everything you otherwise see advertised is rubbish. There are only three tiers in blackjack play. The best odds belong to good, accurate card counters. The next group is those who play by statistically proven blackjack strategy cards. And the biggest losses belong to everybody else who plays without counting, or using a strategy card. You think you have a great system? So did the other hundred thousand suckers.

9. All Blackjack Games Are The Same Blackjack varies widely all over the globe. Whether you play on a cruise ship, or a major Las Vegas casino, it’s a good idea to evaluate the odds of each game before you sit down. Some BJ games have added features that (surprise) are not improvements for the players. Does the dealer draw on a soft 17? If he does, the casino edge is probably higher than if he stays put on any 17. If the game only pays 6 to 5 on blackjacks, you’re losing money. Take the time to study the BJ game differences and play only those games giving you the best odds. Lord knows it’s hard enough to win, so choose your game carefully.

The rules that help the player are: Early surrender, doubling down on any two cards, 2-1 payout in blackjacks, double down after splits, drawing to split aces. The ones that hurt the player are: rigid double down rules, dealers hitting soft 17’s, 6 to 5 blackjack payouts, adding more decks. (Eight decks are worse than one deck.) By shopping for the right game, you’ll start off with the best odds.

10. I Never Take A Break. Perhaps you think you’ll cut short your winning streak. Or you might just think you’ll miss some winning hands if you get up from the table. Well, surprise! You’re wrong here, too. A player’s mental clarity and number counting faculty is often eroded by stress and being tired. So why not go get a sandwich and a cup of coffee before venturing back to the battle scene. By the way, do you think the casinos give dealers twenty minute breaks after every hour because casino managers are very nice guys?

By correcting your mistakes, and changing your behavior, you’ll lose less and maybe even make a few bucks!

By Frank Michaels, Copyright © 2006

August 1, 2013

Booster's Illegal Betting Earned Him a Million Dollars on UM Hurricane Loss

Go Gators! Down with the Hurricanes!

_________________________

June 17, 2013

"Miami booster makes gambling allegations in SI story"

Convicted felon and former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro claims he made more than $1 million when N.C. State upset Miami 19-16 in 2007, he recently told Sports Illustrated in a series of wide-ranging interviews from prison.

Shapiro, who was interviewed by SI at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, La., before being moved to a facility in Butner, was convicted in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, and is at the heart of Miami’s troubles with the NCAA. Shapiro claims to have paid players and provided other improper benefits to primarily the football program for nearly a decade.

The SI story included claims by Shapiro that he placed a bet days before N.C. State upset the Hurricanes in November 2007 based on inside information that then Miami quarterback Kyle Wright was injured and would not play.

In the SI story, Shapiro admits to winning at least 23 bets, most in the six-figure range, on Miami football games between 2005 and ’09. Shapiro said he sometimes bet against the Hurricanes, based on the information provided by either the players or assistant coaches.

Shapiro said he bet against Miami in a 2006 game at Duke because some players told him that they had quit on then-coach Larry Coker.

Miami was favored by 17.5 points at Duke on Oct. 21, 2006 and Shapiro bet against the Hurricanes, and won, when they didn’t cover the betting spread in a 20-15 win, according to the SI story. (The Canes beat Duke 52-7 the previous season).

Coker was fired after the ’06 season but Shapiro claims he continued to bet against the Canes and coach Randy Shannon because of injury information from two assistant coaches.

Shapiro provided SI with bank records to verify the gambling information. The NCAA has publicly dismissed Shapiro’s gambling charges, which were not included in the NCAA’s investigation of the program and Shapiro’s other transgressions.

Miami met the NCAA last week and completed its hearing with the Committee on Infractions. The next step is to receive a punishment from the NCAA. The school has already self-imposed a two-year bowl ban and will have to wait another eight to 12 weeks for the NCAA’s initial ruling, which they can appeal.

July 22, 2013

Breaking Bad: The worst poker table. Ever!

I've played with some creepy characters in my day, but the bad guys in "Breaking Bad" take the cake.

I'm sure you would agree that any of these guys would creep the heck out of you if they were at your table in a game of five card stud draw.

But which one would creep you out the most?

Complete the survey and let us know.

Party like it's 99 (cents left in my pockets)

Fun, Fun, Fun in Babylon.

__________________________

“Casino bosses transform Sin City into Club City”

LAS VEGAS -- To step into club XS at the Wynn Las Vegas is to enter the dreamscape of a modern artist with fetishes for gold and bronze and bodies in motion.

A golden-plated frieze made from casts of nude women sits atop a shimmering staircase. Waves of electronic dance music grow louder with each downward step toward a pulsating, football field-sized club where lasers cut the air above thousands of dancers.

The revelers take their cues from the famous DJs onstage who are known to surf the crowd in inflatable rafts, throw sheet cakes at clubbers’ faces and spray vintage champagne into their mouths.

In Sin City, where over-the-top is always the sales pitch, lavish nightclubs featuring a heart-pounding party have become the backbone of a billion-dollar industry that is soaring while gambling revenue slips.

“We learned a long time ago that in order to continue to attract people from around the world, we have to provide things that are hard to find anywhere else,” said Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, which operates nine Strip hotel-casinos boasting their own dance scenes. “These clubs, if done correctly, are tremendous magnets.”

A $100 million temple to revelry, XS is the top-earning nightclub in the country, joining six other Vegas venues in the top 10. Its estimated annual revenue hovers somewhere near $90 million, according to the trade publication Nightclub & Bar.

The city now boasts more than 50 such clubs. New additions are coming all the time, including the five-story Hakkasan at the MGM Grand, which debuted last month, and Light at Mandalay Bay, Cirque du Soleil’s first foray into the disco business, opening Memorial Day weekend.

The rise of the Vegas super-club coincides with the decline of the town’s gambling supremacy. The tiny Chinese enclave of Macau surpassed the desert oasis as the world’s top gambling destination in 2006. Singapore is on track to claim the No. 2 spot.

During the heart of the recession, when overall Strip revenues tumbled by 16 percent, nightclubs saw more profit than ever. By 2011, Las Vegas was clubbing all the way to the bank, with Strip beverage departments earning more than $1 billion. Casino tycoons began remaking the Strip into the club capital of the world.

With extravagantly paid DJs, larger-than-life venues and billboard ads that stretch beyond the Strip to Hollywood Boulevard and Miami, casinos are trying to pull off a tricky balancing act: keeping the kitschy core that draws older generations while finding a way to make the city hip enough to attract a younger, big-spending set — emphasis on big-spending.

“We’re not interested in competing against everyone to get the 21-year-olds that are going to spend little to no money and are going to clog up the hallways,” Murren said.

The 10-minute taxi ride from the airport to the Strip takes visitors past dozens of billboards promoting top DJs from Holland and beyond. Celine Dion and Elton John now take their place on marquees alongside names that recall Internet handles, such as “deadmau5” and “Kaskade.”

Las Vegas, long known for catching performers on the downswing of their careers, finally appears to have embraced a musical trend at the height of its popularity. Globe-trotting Dutch DJ Afrojack, 25, said he has come to consider the Strip his home because it’s the one place he believes is as dance-music-focused as he is.

By HANNAH DREIER (Associated Press)

July 17, 2013

Sailing Away to Gamble in Bimini

Nice

___________________

"Getting Shipping Could Bring 3000 people a day to its Bimini Hotel"

By Douglas Hanks dhanks@MiamiHerald.com

Genting hasn’t been able to bring a casino to Miami, but soon it will be able to bring a sizeable chunk of Miami to a casino.

The Malaysian company is preparing to launch a small cruise ship capable of whisking more than 1,500 passengers from Port Miami to its new casino two hours away in Bimini.Neither side was granting interviews Tuesday, but a draft port agreement posted Tuesday night on the county’s website outlined the deal. Genting will pay about $11 million upfront to fund the county’s refurbishment of Terminal H for the new ship, and then be reimbursed in the form of rent credits for the construction cost. The agreement, to be voted on by the County Commission next month, calls for Genting to pay the port about $7 million yearly in rent.

Genting executives had initial talks with port executives and county commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Lynda Bell, who heads the committee that oversees the port, during an April meeting in Singapore, according to a source familiar with the county-funded trip.

The new ship, which is already docked at Port Miami, is slated to make its first official run to Bimini on Friday, with a ceremony featuring Bahamian and Miami-Dade leaders and top Genting executives. Genting plans to offer two trips a day: the first leaving at 9 a.m. and returning at 7 p.m., and a second “Night Party Cruise” leaving at 9 p.m. and returning at 5 a.m. Tickets start at $49.

The launch of the Bimini SuperFast marks a big step for Genting’s entry into the local gambling market. The company purchased the old Miami Herald headquarters in 2011 but the Legislature did not provide the needed change in state gambling laws to put a casino there. Genting said it still plans to build a large residential and hotel complex on the site, and it will bear the company’s global brand, Resorts World Miami.

Last year, Genting announced plans to turn the Bimini Bay Resort into Resorts World Bimini, and is planning to officially open the casino Friday with the new boat’s maiden voyage. At 10,000-square-feet, the casino is tiny when compared to the 140,000 square feet at the Seminole Hard Rock casino in Hollywood and 67,000 square feet at the Miccosukee casino in western Miami-Dade.

Genting hopes the allure of a largely unspoiled Bahamian island and the fun of an ocean voyage will make Bimini Bay a sought-after day trip for locals and vacationers. And Genting is pointing out that its Bimini resort won’t be governed by the more restrictive gambling laws of Florida, and can offer “Vegas-style” gambling, including roulette, craps, baccarat and bets on professional sports.

But one veteran of the casino-resort industry said the location could be a challenge for Genting.

“There are some good gaming offerings already in South Florida,’’ said Howard Karawan, who once ran the Atlantis casino resort in Nassau and presided over the re-launch of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. “While Bimini has some nice offerings, there’s going to have to be more than just a little casino to attract them over there.”

Avoiding a Gambling Disaster Out at Sea

Well, most of us gamblers regularly take a bath at the casinos.

__________________

“Genting’s Casino Ship Fails Safety Inspection , Will Remain Docked”

The cruise ship Genting Group had planned to sail to its Bimini casino resort last week failed to meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, The Miami Herald reports.

The Bimini SuperFast was originally scheduled to set sail on Friday, but the ship and its operators failed tests gauging performance in emergency situations, the Coast Guard said. The crew was unable to meet the requirement that passengers must be off the ship and in lifeboats within 30 minutes, said Janet Espino-Young, chief of the inspection division at the U.S. Coast Guard. Espino-Young told the Herald that emergency power sources a

nd the mechanism that lowers the lifeboats into the water malfunctioned. The crew was able to perform the drill on Saturday; however, the Coast Guard said it will continue to work with the crew because other discrepancies still remain.

The SuperFast is expected to sail twice daily to Genting's casino resort on the Bimini island. The ferry is expected to create at least 800 jobs, and provide PortMiami with about $6 million in fees annually for a total of $60 million over the initial 10 years of the contract.

July 12, 2013

Probe into the Miccosukee's Gambling Profits

Naught, naughty. Bad boy. Bad boy.



______________________

“IRS steps up probe of Miccosukee Tribe’s payouts of gambling profits to members”

(Miami Herald) The Internal Revenue Service has escalated its investigation into the Miccosukee Indians’ finances, demanding that the West Miami-Dade tribe hand over a mountain of internal records showing millions in allegedly unreported payments from its gambling profits to tribal members.

The IRS’ sweeping new action, which the Miccosukees are trying to stop in Miami federal court, seeks internal documents of the tribe’s gaming distributions during 2006-2010 as well as its council meeting records on tax matters from as far back as 1985.

The agency is demanding a long list of documents — from Miccosukee disbursement statements to check register reports, plus any tax advice from tribal lawyers and accountants. It’s part of an aggressive push to recover potentially tens of millions of dollars in back income taxes.

The tribe lashed out at the IRS.

“No longer is there even a pretense that the United States is not seeking to harass the Miccosukee Tribe and its members,” the tribe claims in court documents.

“The Miccosukee Tribe is not subject to income taxes, yet the IRS seeks all of its records based on sections of the [tax code] that do not even apply to the tribe,” wrote Miccosukee lawyer Bernardo Roman III in court documents.

Roman could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.

The federal agency’s legal battle with the Miccsosukees has been raging over the past decade, with the IRS winning a series of fights over access to the tribe’s financial accounts held by banks and other third parties. The tribe, which has tried to use its sovereign status to block the IRS’ civil probe, might now be on the hook for taxes owed by many of its 600 members.

The reason: The tribe’s status as a sovereign nation means the entity itself is not subject to taxes under federal law. But once the tribe distributes profits from its gambling casino to members, they are individually responsible for reporting and paying taxes on their annual income tax returns, according to the IRS. The tribe is also responsible for reporting and withholding a portion of any personal income distributed from its gambling enterprise featuring bingo-style slot machines and poker.

Earlier this year, the tribe admitted that more than 100 Miccosukee Indians owed the federal government about $25.8 million in back taxes, penalties and interest on income the tribe handed out from its gaming operation off the Tamiami Trail during 2000-05.

A federal judge has repeatedly sided with the IRS in its quest to obtain the tribe’s financial records. Last month, U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold denied the tribe’s bid to block the IRS’ summons for Miccosukee financial accounts for 2010.

Gold said the U.S. government’s sovereignty was “superior” to that of the tribe, and therefore the Miccosukees must release their financial records held by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, American Express, CitiBank and Wachovia.

Gold’s ruling was consistent with his previous decision ordering the tribe to turn over the same financial records for 2006-09.

The tribe has a long history of fighting the federal government over major issues ranging from income taxes to the cleanup of the Everglades.

But since the ouster of Miccosukee Chairman Billy Cypress in late 2009, the tribe has filed one lawsuit after another against the former leader and his inner circle of advisers, including two ex-U.S. attorneys in Miami who represented the Miccosukees.

In a federal suit filed last month, the tribe accused Cypress of stealing $26 million from the Miccosukees to spend on numerous gambling trips, shopping sprees, real-estate investments and luxury cars. The suit claims Cypress conspired with two former Miccosukee financial officers, former U.S. attorneys Dexter Lehtinen and Guy Lewis, and a Miami brokerage firm, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, to keep the tribe in the dark about his alleged “criminal enterprise.”

The federal racketeering suit claims the tribe did not “discover this massive web of financial theft, embezzlement and fraud until 2010,” when Colley Billie replaced Cypress as the Miccosukee chairman.

The suit details a total of $11.5 million in ATM withdrawals by Cypress at casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere, along with an additional $4 million in American Express charges for jewelry, restaurants and other expenses, between 2006 and 2009. Cypress also acquired nearly a dozen properties and residences, from Miami-Dade to Panama City Beach, worth a total of $4 million.

The tribe’s suit targeting him is the latest of his legal woes. In 2010, the IRS claimed that Cypress personally owed the government almost $2.8 million in taxes and penalties on $6.65 million in unreported income during 2003-05.