Guest Author - Vance Rowe
The sports betting world will never be the same anymore. The father of sports book gambling, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, passed away on October 13, 2008. He was 79 years old. He was also the inspiration for the movie, “Casino” which starred Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro. It was DeNiro who played the part of Lefty in the movie. In the beginning of the movie, Robert DeNiro as the “Lefty-like” character named Sam “Ace” Rothstein, was sitting his car getting ready to leave a restaurant, when his car blew up. This same thing actually happened to Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal back in 1979. He obviously survived the blast as he just died of natural causes. The car he was in, a Cadillac, had a thick steel plate under the driver’s seat as standard equipment so when he turned the key and a bomb went off, the plate diverted the blast just long enough for Lefty to jump from the vehicle before it became engulfed with flames and completely blew up. It is thought to have been the work of his one time “body guard” in “Tough” Tony Spilotro. The Spilotro-like character was played by Pesci in the movie.
Born in Chicago in 1929, Frank grew up, like most mobsters then, not happy with the scant money that came in from their fathers’ jobs. He soon discovered that he had a knack for making odds in horse racing. He soon became a renowned sports handicapper and had close ties to the mob. He ran four casinos at one time for the mob, including the famous Stardust in Las Vegas. When the state of Nevada found out that he was running the casinos without holding a gaming license, he was banned from running any Las Vegas casino. He tried to thwart the decision by taking on titles like Food and Beverage Director and even had his own television talk show. He introduced horse handicapping and betting into his casinos and other casinos followed suit. He was even said to be the greatest sports handicapper that lived by Sports Illustrated and that didn’t do him any good either, as, he was in Las Vegas’s “Black Book” and listed as having ties to the mob and could not work in the casinos there. Rosenthal was arrested and indicted for many crimes including one in 1962 when he was charged with trying to fix a college basketball game by bribing a player.
In 1961, he was a part of the infamous or famous, (depending on your feelings toward it), McClellan hearings. Thirty-seven times he “plead the fifth” during the hearings and would not even answer the question of his being right or left handed. Some sources say this is the reason for the “lefty” moniker but other sources say that he had the nickname from childhood. In the early 1980’s, Rosenthal finally left Vegas after the attempt on his life and ran a sports betting website and was a consultant to many casinos outside of the United States and their jurisdiction.
One time, Rosenthal was asked how he stayed in such good shape and his reply was simply: “I keep my mouth shut.” Yes, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal passed away and that closes another storied chapter in the history book that is Las Vegas but he also left a sports betting legacy that will never be rivaled.