Hilton's Fan Cave: Out with the smoke, in with the betting

Beer and cigars.

They're not just for breakfast anymore, and they're more than a nutritious part of the columnist's training table.

They're also a staple of the March Madness crowd currently elbowing into local sports books on the Strip and elsewhere. From all appearances, March Madness marketing is on its way to rivaling the Super Bowl in the big-party department.

But times are changing even in sports books that once had Mexico City's air quality.

Big cigar smokers "are in the minority these days," Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook boss Jay Kornegay says. "Most people actually prefer a nonsmoking environment."

That's the motivation behind the Hilton's new smoke-free Fan Cave, which opened Thursday in a space formerly set aside for a poker room. Kornegay says it gives growing numbers of customers what they want: sports betting without the haze.

Simply designating areas that share the same air space "smoking" and "nonsmoking" wasn't going to cut the fog or please the players, he says: "We wanted a separate room to accommodate the demand that we've seen especially over the last four or five years."

MOE MEMORIES: Some called him a mobster. Others hailed him as Mr. Las Vegas. But there was a time Moe Dalitz held the reputation as the undisputed godfather of the valley, as a recent column noted.

Former Desert Inn dealer Steve Gordon has fond memories of the late casino giant.

"I was just a very, very young kid back in 1961 who Mr. Dalitz and Mr. Marty Kutzen put to work dealing 21 at the Desert Inn, and I was there until 1966," Gordon writes. "I can still remember the audition that seemed like it went on for hours, and both Mr. Dalitz and Mr. Kutzen telling me, 'Kid, come in tonight at 11. Keep your nose clean and you got a real good job.' How right they were."

Dalitz had a tough reputation, but Gordon observed another side of the former Cleveland racket boss.

"I can attest like many others (that) anyone who had a worthy cause, Mr. Dalitz never turned us down," Gordon recalled. "… In my opinion, there should be a statue erected in honor of Mr. Dalitz."

COSMO'S PUNCH: The Cosmopolitan has one of the hippest sensibilities on the Strip, and now it's throwing customers a hook by producing an eight-bout boxing card on March 25. Feature events include a pair of 10-round super welterweight bouts.

Is this a sign someone is trying to catch a little of the phenomenal marketing magic of the MMA?

HOOP SCOOP: With half the town checking its March Madness brackets and rooting for their favorite teams in the NCAA Tournament, betting on basketball is on a lot of minds. There's plenty of wagering on the professional game, too.

Sean Patrick Griffin's new book, "Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made it Happen," takes readers inside the shadowed world of basketball referee Tim Donaghy and a pair of sharpies, Jimmy "Baba" Battista and Tommy Martino.

It should get a wide audience.

YOUR TOWN: The first St. Baldrick's fundraiser Saturday at The District's Rachel's Kitchen raised $7,800. To see such an eclectic mix of locals turn out was a reminder of the real heart of this community.

JAZZ GIANTS: The Black Mountain Institute's presentation of "Jazz, America's Gift to the World" at 7 p.m. Thursday at Doc Rando Recital Hall at UNLV, features an impressive speaking lineup: David Loeb, Ellis Marsalis, Ishmael Reed and Marlena Shaw.

Best of all, it's free.

ON THE BOULEVARD: Reader's Digest's national "We Hear You America" tour hits the valley Tuesday with a City Hall appearance and the passing of "stimulus" checks to representatives of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson government.

If they knew budget troubles, they'd be tempted to keep driving.

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.