Since 1964, the Gambler’s Book Club has been a Las Vegas institution, a place to find reliable information about all aspects of gambling.
Over the years, even the FBI sent new agents to 630 S. 11th St. to bone up on gambling and sports betting. Newsie types went there for the straight skinny. Writers, including Nick Pileggi, used the store for research. Poker players sold their how-to books there. Colorful characters abounded . Founder John Luckman made “The First 100,” biographies of people who made significant impacts during Las Vegas’ first century.
But having left its downtown location, bouncing briefly to a Flamingo Road site, the Gambler’s Book Club now is housed at 5473 S. Eastern Ave., directly across the street from comedian Redd Foxx’s old home.
Whether it stays there is anybody’s guess.
The Clark County Planning Commission decided Feb. 5, the bookstore violated zoning laws and denied a use permit to let owner Avery Cardoza, also known as Allan Silberstang, continue operating there.
The issue: A neighbor complained about Cardoza having too much retail space. Really.
The county calculated that the bookstore is using 1,012 square feet of retail space, instead of the 243 square feet the code allows under the office/professional code of C-P.
Cardoza, frustrated by the bureaucratic hoops, believes the county is being picayune about the zoning code.
While the planning commissioners were rejecting Cardoza’s use permit application, Chairman Dan Shaw suggested Cardoza apply for a zoning variance, which seemed to be offering the store owner and publisher a way to do business and be legal.
Now if a variance is rejected, maybe officials are hoping Cardoza will pull up stakes. He has fewer than 25 days to decide whether to apply for the variance. He probably will.
Cardoza was already a publisher of gaming books and bought the house on Eastern north of Rawhide Street in 2007 with the intention of competing with the Gambler’s Book Store at 1550 E. Tropicana Ave. Instead, he bought the store in 2010 and relocated it to Eastern.
During the time I was there Tuesday, not one customer came into the bookstore downstairs while I interviewed owner Cardoza and operator Robert Casagrande in the book publishing area upstairs. Let’s just say, I had no trouble finding a parking space in the back of the store, another of the county’s worries.
“\u2009‘Bob (Casagrande) and I worked hard to save this institution,” Cardoza said. In this economy, with all the talk about creating jobs, and in that area, “how can they possibly say this should not be retail?”
“They’re doing everything they can to hurt small business,” Cardoza said.
Dan Coburn in the county’s public response office said since Cardoza bought the property in December 2007, there have been eight county compliance cases filed against it involving signage, zoning and building department issues. The zoning and a signage complaint are on hold, awaiting a decision about whether a zoning variance is appropriate.
The county is following code and responding to a complaint. Anyone who drives along Eastern between Charleston Avenue and Russell Road knows there are few residential homes that haven’t become commercial businesses.
Commercial is ultimately inevitable, as the few residential holdouts surely realize.
Since some residential remains, the staff advised protecting those homes. Under the code, office and professional provides more of a buffer zone than retail.
In reality, it may not be the best location for the bookstore. Cardoza told the planning commissioners it gets no foot traffic. “I don’t know that we’ve ever had three customers at the same time.”
But give him points for trying to keep a treasure alive.
If the Gambler’s Book Club closes its doors, who wins ?
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.