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Statues, Stamps and Tyrants

Idols and accidents in the casino landscape

Statues, Stamps and Tyrants

Anyone familiar with classic Hollywood movies remembers how the U.S. Postal Service, then called the Post Office, was heralded as an “efficient, well-run organization” in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, with the judge agreeing that the agency’s delivery of Santa Claus mail to Kris Kringle, on trial for lunacy, proved that he was the real Santa.

Well, here in the 21st century, using that argument might land poor Kris in the funny farm.

In 2011, the Postal Service was charged with creating its second “Forever Stamp,” in the popular series of postage that remains valid regardless of increases in stamp prices. The image chosen was the Statue of Liberty, and postal bureaucrats combed through photo images, deciding on what they thought was the best-looking depiction of Lady Liberty. The stamp was issued, and sales were brisk for the first few months.

That is, until someone pointed out that the image on the stamp was not of the colossal copper monument in New York Harbor. It was a picture of the faux Statue of Liberty at the center of the fake Manhattan skyline at the New York-New York casino hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The stamp was pulled, but not before the sculptor of the Las Vegas statue, Robert Davidson, sued the Postal Service for copyright infringement.

Last month, a federal judge sided with Davidson, ordering the Postal Service to pay the sculptor $3.5 million in damages for copyright infringement. (I’m guessing the price of stamps is about to go up.) The judge agreed with Davidson’s attorneys that the Vegas statue is “unmistakably different” from the real statue—it’s more “fresh-faced,” “sultry” and even “sexier” than the original, they said.

I love this story, if only as a testament to casino-hotel architecture and design. Some postal employee—now unemployed, presumably—glanced at an image of a Vegas Strip façade and mistook it for the real thing. I’m wondering if there are any French tourist brochures with a picture of the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, or if visitors to Venice are ever surprised there’s no Banana Republic next to the canal.

(Is there? If not, there should be.)

The U.S. Postal Service has not yet commented on the decision, or the fact it will have to shell over a portion of the $70 million profit it made from the Lady Liberty Las Vegas stamp to the sculptor responsible for the image. Attorneys for the federal government had argued that the image on the stamp was too similar to the real statue for Davidson to claim copyright, but the judge agreed that Davidson’s Lady Liberty was sexier.

Evidently, attempts by the federal government to raise the skirt on the original statue and apply makeup before the case came to trial were unsuccessful.

Speaking of snafus involving iconic casino statues, one of the coolest features of the new Hard Rock Atlantic City is the giant Les Paul guitar in front of the porte cochere. According to, the operator had to make a last-minute change to the sculpture—the rhythm/treble pickup selector switch on the guitar was misspelled. It read “RHYTHEM.” The giant typo was corrected by removing the extra vinyl letter at the last minute.

They shouldn’t feel too bad. I’m a professional writer and editor, and “rhythm” is one of those words I’ve always had trouble spelling. I also have had problems with “accommodate,” “Caribbean” and “floccinaucinihilipilification.”

I once even misspelled the word “misspelled.”

Finally, it says here that Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson is considering creating a casino resort in North Korea, now that we’re all warm-and-fuzzy pals with dictator Kim Jong Un. Speaking at a recent event in Jerusalem, Adelson, who was a soldier in the Korean War (and, I think, the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage), noted the recent historic summit between Kim and President Donald Trump, commenting that he would like to return to Korea not to fight, but to “open up his business.”

So now, I’m looking forward to the grand opening of the Sands Pyongyang Casino, Resort & Spa, complete with the 38th Parallel Café, the Supreme Commander Buffet, the Bad Haircut Salon and the Little Rocket Man Lounge.

I’m guessing there will be a statue of Kim out front. Call Robert Davidson. I’m sure there are plenty of statues of the dictator around the country he can use as a model.

I can’t wait to see how Davidson succeeds in making the Kim statue sultry and sexy.

Be careful not to misspell his name, though. In that neighborhood, it could be a fatal mistake.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.