The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas have always been synonymous with high-stakes gambling and larger-than-life personalities. In the 1995 film “Casino,” director Martin Scorsese introduced us to the fictional character Sam “Ace” Rothstein, a cunning casino operator with ties to the mob. However, what many might not know is that Sam Rothstein’s character was inspired by a real-life figure – Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal.

Early Years and Gambling Influence:

Born on June 12, 1929, in Chicago, Frank Rosenthal’s early days were filled with exposure to the world of gambling. His father owned racehorses, and young Frank spent much of his time at the horse tracks, learning about betting odds and percentages. As he grew older, Rosenthal’s interest expanded beyond horse racing into sports like football and baseball. He developed a talent for setting perfect odds in sports betting, a skill that would later make him indispensable to the mob.

In the mid-1950s, Rosenthal began working for the notorious Chicago Outfit, a powerful organized crime syndicate. His expertise in manipulating odds and fixing games made him an invaluable asset to the mob-controlled illegal gambling scene. Rosenthal’s genius lay in enticing gamblers to bet while ensuring that the bookies would always come out ahead, no matter the outcome.

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Despite his criminal activities, Rosenthal’s meticulous approach to odds-making and gambling garnered him a reputation as a mastermind. He would spend hours studying out-of-town newspapers to gather information and ensure his odds were spot on.

However, Rosenthal’s illicit activities caught up with him, and in 1962, he was convicted of bribing a college basketball player to shave points during a game. The following year, he faced a Senate subcommittee on gambling and organized crime due to his growing underworld reputation. During the proceedings, Rosenthal infamously invoked the Fifth Amendment 38 times, further solidifying his notoriety.

To escape the heat in Chicago, Rosenthal moved to Miami in the early 1960s, where he continued his involvement in illegal gambling and faced numerous arrests. He even found himself suspected in several bombings targeting rival gangs. It was during this time that he met Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro, a violent mob enforcer from Chicago. Spilotro would later become Rosenthal’s enforcer in Las Vegas.

Life in Las Vegas and Casino Innovations:

In 1968, sensing that Las Vegas was the place to be for a big-time gambler, Rosenthal made his move to Sin City. Alongside his childhood friend Tony Spilotro, he initially ran a betting parlor. However, Rosenthal’s ambitious nature led him to seek greater opportunities, and he convinced his new wife, Geri McGee, to encourage him to take a job in one of the casinos.

In 1974, Rosenthal joined the Stardust Casino, where he quickly climbed the ranks. Using his talent for gambling and his ties to the mob, he eventually became the hidden force behind several casinos controlled by the Chicago Outfit. Rosenthal played the role of the squeaky clean frontman while secretly pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

His innovations in the casino industry, such as introducing sports betting within a casino and hiring female dealers, helped boost profits significantly. The Stardust Casino became a hub for sports gambling, and Rosenthal’s influence grew even more prominent.

However, as they say, all good things must come to an end. In 1976, the authorities discovered that Rosenthal was operating casinos without a proper gaming license due to his criminal past and connections with organized crime. The Nevada Gaming Control Board barred him from any involvement in gambling, a fate that echoed the one portrayed in the movie “Casino.”

Rosenthal’s friendship with Tony Spilotro also turned sour, as he learned that Spilotro had been skimming money from the casinos. This betrayal, along with Spilotro’s affair with Rosenthal’s wife, Geri, contributed to the couple’s divorce in 1981.

Later Years and Legacy of Frank Rosenthal:

Despite surviving an assassination attempt in 1982, in which a bomb detonated in his car, Rosenthal’s time in Las Vegas was coming to an end. He left Las Vegas and relocated to various places, running sports bars and an online betting site. In 1987, he was formally banned from entering any Nevada casino, solidifying his fall from grace.

Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal died on October 13, 2008, at the age of 79, from an apparent heart attack. His life story and career in Las Vegas became the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s film “Casino”. He was portrayed by Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein.

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Though the movie took some creative liberties with the facts, it largely captures the essence of Frank Rosenthal’s life as a cunning sports gambler and casino executive with ties to organized crime. Rosenthal’s legacy is a testament to the allure and dangers of Las Vegas, where fortunes are made and lost, and where truth is often stranger than fiction.

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