The Boiler Room Operator Who Made It Big
Part I of this post is about the early history of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, specifically his early career as, reportedly, a Vegas boiler room operator.
The info in that post and this one comes mainly from Zengrifter, an acquaintance of mine for over 30 years, who started his own boiler room career in Vegas in the ’70s, when Sisolak started, and heard of Sisolak from the late Ron Schroeder (the king of Vegas boiler rooms; see below) in the early ’80s.
There is no question that Zengrifter is an expert in this topic and there is no question that Zengrifter was working at boiler rooms in Las Vegas in the 1970s. You can find more info on Zengrifter as well in Part I.
I asked why Sisolak would have moved to Las Vegas in the mid 1970s, when the town was dominated by the mob and provided little opportunity for anyone but gangsters and con men. Now Zengrifter has returned with more info about Sisolak’s early history in Las Vegas. You can find the original here.
[Note: A “boiler room” operation is a room equipped with telephones used for making high-pressure, usually fraudulent, telemarketing sales pitches.]
A little more background on Sisolak and the Vegas boiler rooms …
By the early ’70s boiler rooms in southern Nevada had become a very robust industry. Some operations sold office supplies with a hidden kickback inducement to the company purchasing agent, who typically worked for mid-sized and larger companies and could authorize a purchase order for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars — huge orders of staples and pens and so forth. The sales were made on a net 90-day pay basis, typical of the industry.
One of the product categories in the office supplies catalog that never got any traction was advertising specialties: pens and calendars and the like imprinted with the company’s name.
At that point in time, the biggest boiler room operator was a former commercial plumber from Milwaukee named Ronald Schroeder, with whom I was close. Ron was well-connected in Milwaukee and many rounders out of Milwaukee flocked to Vegas to join this new semi-underground growth industry.
Schroeder’s company was called 50 States Distributing, and one of his salesmen had a eureka moment and showed Ron that the advertising specialties could be bigger than office supplies, and open up a huge market of small businesses — florists, bakeries, gas stations and such.
It might only be a coincidence that Steve Sisolak also hails from Milwaukee, but he first got into that sales racket while going to school in Vegas in the late ’70s.
The untapped market for advertising specialties was huge, and Ron’s company and its spin-offs were ordering thousands of rural yellow-page phone books filled with small business owners who had never ever gotten a phone call from out of state, let alone Las Vegas, to sell them something.
At the time that Sisolak first entered the game (around ’77) the pitch was an ingenious “misprint” angle, with no prizes:
“John I’m calling you with something of an emergency, I own a company in Las Vegas that does the advertising specialties for all the big hotels and casinos here.
“I just had a big order cancel on me, a large floral arrangement business in San Francisco that HAS THE SAME NAME AS YOURS: Big Valley Florist, they went bankrupt, and we’ve already printed the first line of advertising, the name, on ten thousand of our best quality ballpoint pens!
“If you could please help me and take some of these off my hands I can print three more lines of advertising plus your logo, and I’ll sell them at my cost and pay for the shipping. Can you please help me, John?”
The Vegas ‘adspec’ industry had exploded so big that by ’76 when the biggest timeshare sales resort in the country, the Las Vegas Carriage House – backed by Teamsters’ Morris Shenker – did $21 million in sales (20% down and payments for 5 years), Schroeder’s company did $26 million, COD.
Needless to say, organized crime quickly got its hooks into this burgeoning industry.
By 1981 Schroeder had reached an impasse with regulators in 20 states, but not Nevada of course, and he made a sweetheart consent deal to leave the industry with a slap on the wrist.
At that point in time, Sisolak, I believe with a little help from shadowy friends, reconstituted Ron’s little empire. The name changed from 50 States Distributing to American Distributing Co. and the pitch angle changed from a misprint to a major prize sweepstakes.
Note: In Part I of this post Zengrifter said that he had it on good authority that Sisolak’s American Distribution Co.’s sales inducement was based on a faux instant sweepstakes. For example, the boiler room brokers would tell a customer he’d won a “big screen TV.” A few weeks after the sale the prize would arrive – a magnifying lens to affix to the front of the TV set. What they had actually “won” was not a big screen TV, but rather a big TV SCREEN!
I think it’s easy to see why Harry Reid promoted Sisolak to governor in 2018. As I’ve said before, Nevada is a fake state carny operation. There are few people who could have been better suited to run the Democrats’ Bat Plague scam here.
 Note: A “rounder” is someone whose conduct is immoral or improper. Doyle Brunson said the term was first used to refer to professional poker players who made their living in illegal poker games. Many early professional poker players made their living in the illegal games by cheating.
You can find more of Zengrifter’s stories about the dark side of Vegas at his website here.