Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2021

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Gambling publisher Luckman dies

Edna Luckman was not a gambler, but she realized early on the need in Las Vegas for gamblers to have a sporting chance against the casinos.

In the late 1950s, after her husband, John Luckman, came home from dealing blackjack, they would chat about how so many players were ignorant when it came to odds, strategy and money management.

Together, they created a gambling publishing company that served as the springboard for young authors and revolutionized both the way players approach the games and the way casinos market to sophisticated customers.

Edna Luckman, co-founder of the Gambler's Book Shop downtown and the only bookkeeper in its 38-year history, died Tuesday of heart failure in Las Vegas. She was 79.

Services will be 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at Paradise Memorial Gardens Chapel, 6200 S. Eastern Ave. Bunker Mortuary is handling the arrangements.

"They ran this business as a place with a friendly environment where customers could browse and they could schmooze with the gamblers," said Howard Schwartz, longtime manager of the Gambler's Book Shop at 630 S. 11th St.

John, who died in 1987, and Edna published 134 books on gambling -- the first of which were run off a copy machine in 1964 and sold from under the carport of their home five miles from where the shop now stands. She published three more books after his death.

They opened their first shop on Main Street, and in the early 1970s moved to the current location. Over the years their shop has carried nearly every significant book written on gambling in the 20th century. They also have long maintained a section of books on problem gambling.

Their catalogue business has an international clientele.

"For years, Edna would personally respond to customers who sent notes with their catalogue orders," Schwartz said. "Some of them wrote back that they were astonished that the owner would take the time to do that."

Edna Luckman was born Jan. 5, 1923, in Chicago. She met John in 1946 in Santa Monica, Calif., and married him that year. In the 1940s and '50s they owned and operated a bakery in Los Angeles, where her primary job was bookkeeper.

They moved to Las Vegas in the late 1950s at a time when only a handful of books on gambling from the player's perspective existed. The first books the Luckmans published were "The Facts of ..." series. They provided basic winning strategies on numerous games.

The books were sold in hotel book shops for 50 cents apiece. However, some casino operators, fearing that players would get too good, had the books pulled from the shelves. Soon, however, gamblers from beginners to pros flocked to the book shop to get the valuable information.

"The Luckmans played a major role in convincing casinos that such books gave people, who ordinarily just stood around watching and feeling intimidated, a feeling of empowerment to sit down and play the games," Schwartz said.

"The casino operators learned that educated players were repeat customers. They market to those gamblers today."

The Luckmans also gave early gambling authors their start in the business by publishing their books. Among them were poker pro David Sklansky, horse racing writer James Quinn and the late sports betting writer Huey Mahl.

They helped Bill Friedman edit his breakthrough gaming book "Casino Management" and published the gambling classics "Theory of Blackjack" by the late Peter Griffin and "Professional Blackjack" by Stanford Wong.

After John's death, Edna established the company's Internet business and assisted Hollywood motion picture producers in creating accurate portrayals of gamblers. One motion picture for which the Gambler's Book Shop got a screen credit was the 1998 Matt Damon poker film "Rounders."

Also in 1998, Edna established at the shop the immortal gamblers gallery, featuring large photos of gamblers, authors, casino founders and executives, race and sports book directors, junketeers and many other industry luminaries.

Schwartz, who is in charge of a staff of six full-time employees, said Luckman took steps to ensure that the business would continue operating as usual.

Luckman is survived by a niece, Nancy Resendez of Hawthore, Calif.

Donations in Edna Luckman's memory can be made to the Kidney Foundation of Nevada, 3050 E. Desert Inn Road or the Animal Foundation of Nevada, 700 N. Mojave Road.