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 778 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.



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