How mob associate become a pioneer in sports betting: Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal
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How mob associate become a pioneer in sports betting: Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

Categories: gambling history, offline casinos 2 Oct 2020 1171 0

Frank Lawrence "Lefty" Rosenthal was a sports handicapper, Chicago Outfit partner, and a former Las Vegas casino executive (June 12, 1929-October 13, 2008). He had received the mocking nickname "Lefty" because at a hearing on gambling and organized crime, he had cited the Fifth Amendment thirty-seven times, even invoking his right to remain silent when asked "Are you left-handed?"

Early Years

Frank Lawrence
Frank Lawrence "Lefty" Rosenthal

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Rosenthal grew up on the city's West Side. As a teenager, in the bleachers of Wrigley Land, Rosenthal learned sports betting and would sometimes miss classes to attend Chicago sporting events. By the mid 1950s, the Chicago Outfit was collaborating with him. Chosen for his gambling capacity, Rosenthal, on behalf of the Mafia, ran the largest illegal bookmaking office in the US. The Outfit and Rosenthal, based in Cicero, Illinois under the guise of the Cicero Home Improvement company, obtained "contracts" to repair athletic activities from sports bribers. Rosenthal moved the activity to North Bay Village in Miami to escape scrutiny after being arrested as a co-conspirator on several sports bribery charges.

By 1961, Rosenthal had developed a national reputation as a sports bettor, oddsmaker and handicapper, and was mostly seen while living in Miami in the company of influential Chicago Outfit members, John Cerone and Fiore Buccieri. Rosenthal was given a subpoena at this time to testify before the Gaming and Organized Crime panel of Senator McClellan, accused of match fixing. He has been banned from racing organizations in Florida because of this. Rosenthal was arrested only once amid his numerous convictions for illicit gambling and bookmaking, pleading no contest in 1963, for falsely bribing New York University player Ray Paprocky to save points for a North Carolina college basketball game. To stop police scrutiny again, in 1968, Rosenthal moved to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas


Rosenthal, a pioneer in sports gaming, illegally ran the casinos Stardust, Fremont, Marina and Hacienda when the Chicago Outfit regulated them.


He created the first sports book that ran from inside a casino, making Stardust one of the first sports gambling centres in the world. Another breakthrough for Rosenthal was to make female blackjack dealers, which doubled Stardust 's income in one year.

But as brutal as he may be, in his strategy, Rosenthal was still as careful and intelligent as he ever was, and not only in terms of gambling itself. He hosted a local TV show with celebrity stars and even counted the blueberries in the muffins in the kitchen to make sure they only had 10 in each one.

Of course, in revolutionizing the casino's gaming activity by pushing aggressively into sports betting and recruiting female dealers, he really made his mark. All in all, the movements of Frank Rosenthal helped drive the profits of Stardust soaring.


All good things, though, have to come to an end, especially when the mafia and millions upon millions of dollars are involved.

Frank Rosenthal was having problems with the government when the Stardust was flourishing.

After officials learned in 1976 that Rosenthal was operating casinos illegally without a gaming license from Nevada, they convened a hearing to determine his legitimate right to receive one. Due to his unsavory image as an organized crime associate, particularly due to his boyhood relationship with Chicago hitman Anthony Spilotro, Rosenthal was quickly refused a license.

Anthony Spilotro
Anthony Spilotro

He had no legal gaming license, even though he was operating many casinos illegally (his background meant that he certainly wouldn't have been able to get one). And because of this, as well as his established organized crime connections, in 1976, the Nevada Gaming Commission was able to prohibit him from having anything to do with Las Vegas gambling.

In addition, Rosenthal discovered that his wife had been having an affair with Spilotro. This infidelity and her substance addiction led to their marital collapse in 1980, even though she and Rosenthal had two children together.

Meanwhile, Spilotro and a dozen other mobsters, who had been making serious profits off these casinos, were charged by the police. What's more, Rosenthal even learned that Spilotro had been skimming money that was not yet known to his mafia bosses, prompting the two old mates to fall out.


In October 1982, it just got worse. Leaving the local diner, Rosenthal got into his car. It erupted minutes later. Rosenthal was thrown out of the car, but a metal plate under his seat saved his life, which also happened to be a feature of that particular model and was able to protect him from the bomb's explosion from below just enough.

Months later, Rosenthal left Las Vegas and retired to Laguna Niguel, California. In 1987, after he was put in "the Black Book," he was legally kicked out of Las Vegas, rendering him persona non grata (unable to operate, or even enter) all Nevada casinos because of his supposed connections to organized crime. Rosenthal then moved to Boca Raton, Florida, after Laguna Niguel, and then to Miami Beach, where he ran a sports betting company and worked as a consultant for many offshore sports betting businesses. He died on October 13, 2008 at the age of 79.

casino movie

Popular classic criminal movie Casino(1995) is based on Rosenthal, Spilotro and Cullotta(Spilotro's right hand) story.

See more: Mafia impact on Las Vegas in early years, Legendary gamblers: Nikos "Nick the Greek" Dandolas, Benny Binion - gambling legend and convicted criminal, Legendary gamblers: Arnold Rothstein


Q: Who was Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, and why is he important to the history of sports betting?

A: Frank Rosenthal was a notorious mob associate who became a pioneer in the sports betting industry in the 1970s and '80s. He was known for his innovative approach to handicapping and his ability to move large sums of money across multiple sportsbooks.

Q: How did Rosenthal get involved with organized crime, and what was his role in the Mafia's activities?

A: Rosenthal was a childhood friend of Chicago mobster Anthony Spilotro, and he became involved with the Mafia through his association with Spilotro. He served as the head of the Chicago outfit's illegal sportsbook operations in Las Vegas, and he was also involved in other criminal activities, including casino skimming and money laundering.

Q: What was Rosenthal's connection to Las Vegas, and how did he become a pioneer in the city's sports betting scene?

A: Rosenthal moved to Las Vegas in the 1960s and began working as a bookmaker for the Stardust and other casinos. He quickly gained a reputation as one of the best handicappers in the business, and he eventually became the manager of the Stardust's sportsbook. He then went on to open his own sportsbook at the Fremont Hotel, where he introduced several innovative new betting options.

Q: What innovations did Rosenthal bring to sports betting that made him so successful?

A: Rosenthal was known for his ability to use advanced analytics and insider information to make highly accurate predictions about sporting events. He also introduced several new betting options, such as point spreads, that made it easier for bettors to place more strategic wagers. Additionally, he was one of the first bookmakers to offer in-game betting, which allowed gamblers to place bets while a game was in progress.

Q: How did Rosenthal's sports betting operations benefit the Mafia's interests?

A: Rosenthal's sports betting operations were a major source of income for the Chicago outfit, as he was able to move large sums of money across multiple sportsbooks without drawing attention from law enforcement. Additionally, he was known for using his connections in the sports world to influence the outcomes of games in favor of the Mafia's interests.

Q: Was Rosenthal ever arrested or charged with a crime related to his sports betting activities?

A: Rosenthal was never convicted of any crimes related to sports betting, although he was arrested several times on other charges, including skimming casino profits and conspiracy to commit murder.

Q: What was the extent of Rosenthal's influence on the sports betting industry in Las Vegas?

A: Rosenthal's innovations in sports betting helped to transform the industry in Las Vegas, making it more sophisticated and profitable than ever before. He also played a key role in the development of the sportsbook as a major attraction in casinos, helping to bring in a new generation of gamblers.

Q: Did Rosenthal ever face any pushback or opposition from other bookmakers in Las Vegas?

A: Rosenthal was known for his abrasive personality and confrontational style, which often put him at odds with other bookmakers and casino owners in Las Vegas. However, his success in the industry ultimately won him widespread respect and admiration.

Q: How did Rosenthal's career in sports betting come to an end?

A: Rosenthal's career in sports betting came to an end in the 1980s, when he was banned from all Nevada casinos for his alleged involvement in casino skimming. He then moved to California, where he continued to work as a handicapper and sports analyst until his death in 2008.

Q: What is Frank Rosenthal's legacy in the gambling industry?

A: Frank Rosenthal's legacy in the gambling industry is significant. He was a pioneer in modern sports betting techniques and helped shape the industry into what it is today. Despite his association with the mafia, Rosenthal's innovations and contributions have been widely recognized and continue to influence the industry.

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