Dr Ivan Mindlin was the in-house casino doctor at the Stardust in Las Vegas in the early 1970s. Mention any of the main characters in Nick Pileggi’s true-crime classic Casino: the Rise and Fall of the Mob in Las Vegas and the Doc knew them well, including the central characters Lefty and Geri Rosenthal. The mob monster Tony ‘the Ant’ Spilotro he didn’t know personally. He went out of his way to avoid him in fact, he says. But he and Spilotro shared a maid who was forever complaining about the mess Spilotro and his Hole in the Wall gang made when they were relaxing at home.
Doc took me as his guest to the splendid Blue Waters resort in Antigua last week while he negotiated a property lease with members of the government. He thought a spot of Caribbean sunshine might do me good. We shared a spacious family apartment with colonial-style furniture, pool, sea view and toilet paper an eighth of an inch thick. But Doc Mindlin doesn’t dwell on the 1970s, nor on the 1980s when he was so successful at sports betting using early computer software that a bookmaker paid him $50,000 a week if he didn’t bet on Mondays. He is now 88, and has about twice the energy I have and refuels on about a quarter of the sleep. And he is smart, as maybe only a Jew can be smart. He likes me because he thinks I am smart too, which tells me he isn’t quite as smart as he thinks he is. (And I look Jewish, he said.) He still puts his hours in assessing the daily data and making his bets. If I woke in the night I would see his face eerily lit by his laptop screen as he sat up in bed placing his American football bets for the next day.
And when it was light, he turned up the volume on CNN news, hauled back the curtain to reveal yet another day in bougainvillea paradise, and began to talk, while on screen, his orange face visibly darkening, President Trump signed directive after directive, and expensively dressed and coiffed studio pundits frothed at the mouth.