Legendary gamblers: Arnold Rothstein
Estimate reading time: 5 min, 890 words

Legendary gamblers: Arnold Rothstein

Categories: cheating, crime, gambling history Posted on 22 Jan 2021 92 0

Rothstein was born in New York City on January 17, 1882, and saw his last classroom at age 16. He worked as a traveling salesman for a while, but he became drawn to a life of crime when he started hanging out in the neighborhood pool clubs. Rothstein started out small, gambling and working as a local loan shark, but it wasn't long before he made friends with some high-level officials, businessmen and figures of crime.

Arnold Rothstein
Arnold Rothstein

Rothstein was hungry for gambling, especially casino games, cards and horse racing, but he also used a large network of consultants to limit the volatility of his betting. For instance, he was accused of engineering the results of several horse races. In Manhattan, he allegedly ran an illegal casino.

Black Sox Scandal

Both for and against Rothstein being involved in the 1919 World Series fix, there is a lot of facts. In 1919, the agents of Rothstein reportedly paid representatives of the Chicago White Sox to intentionally lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. In what was called the "Black Sox Scandal", he bet against them and made a substantial profit.

He was summoned to Chicago to testify before a grand jury investigation of the incident; Rothstein said he was an innocent businessman, bent on clearing his name and his reputation. No proof could be identified by prosecutors to link Rothstein to the affair, and he was never indicted. Testified by Rothstein: 

When Abe Attell and some other cheap gamblers decided to frame the series and make a killing, the whole thing began. The world knows that I was asked about the offer, and my friends know that I flatly turned it down. I have no doubt that Attell used my name to bring it in order. Smarter men than Abe have done this. But I wasn't on it, under any conditions, wouldn't have gone into it, and didn't bet a cent on the Series after I found out what was going on.

Abe Attell
Abe Attell

In another version of the story, Joseph "Sport" Sullivan, a gambler, first approached Rothstein, who suggested Rothstein help fix the World Series. Rothstein supposedly turned down Sullivan's proposal, but Rothstein reconsidered Sullivan's first offer when he got Attell's offer.

Joseph
Joseph "Sport" Sullivan

He felt that the rivalry to fix the game made it worth the risk of playing and still being able to cover his participation. Rothstein's biography by David Pietrusza indicated that with Sullivan and Attell, the gangster worked both ends of the fix. Michael Alexander assumed that Attell fixed the series "probably without Arnold Rothstein's approval" which "did not prevent Rothstein from betting on the Series with inside knowledge."

Leo Katcher said that "all the records and minutes of the Grand Jury disappeared. So, too, did the signed confessions of Cicotte, Williams and Jackson.... The state, virtually all of its evidence gone, sought to get the players to repeat their confession on the stand. This they refused to do, citing the Fifth Amendment." The judge eventually has no alternative but to dismiss the case. Supposedly he won $350,000 on this game.

Rothstein owned a racehorse called Sporting Blood under the pseudonym Redstone Stable, which, under dubious circumstances, won the 1921 Travers Stakes. To pump up the betting on Sporting Blood, Rothstein reportedly conspired with a leading trainer, Sam Hildreth. On the morning of the race, Hildreth joined an outstanding three-year-old, Gray Lag, leading the betting on Sporting Blood to rise to 3-1. Via bookmakers, Rothstein bet $150,000, reportedly having been told that the second favorite, Prudery, was off her feed. Hildreth scratched Grey Lag from the starting list shortly before post time and without clarification. About $500,000 in bets plus the purse were raised by Rothstein, but a plot was never proved.

Rothstein reputedly manipulated most of the games that contributed to his winnings, and by joking that he would gamble on anything but the weather because he couldn't influence it, he perpetuated the notion.

Frank Costello
Frank Costello

By the mid-1920s, Rothstein was the financial boss of the American narcotics trade, and some of the most prominent mobsters of the period were hired by him: Frank Costello (Rothstein was financing Costello's bootlegging business), Jack "Legs" Diamond, "Lucky" Luciano and Dutch Schultz were all members of the crew of Rothstein.

Before and after Prohibition, he was a major player in increasing Mob syndicates, until he was gunned down at the Park Central Hotel in Manhattan on November 4, 1928.

Park Central Hotel
Park Central Hotel
George McManus
George McManus, gambling buddy of Rothstein, was arrested in the murder of Rothstein, but acquitted.

Some blamed the assassination on a poker player who Rothstein owes a gambling debt of $300,000 to. And if it took a day for Rothstein to die, he declined to inform the police who used to do that, and the gambler was never charged.

His assassination and the dissolution of the New York City-based criminal organization of Rothstein helped clear the way for Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to take office as a reformer.

King of the Roaring 20s: The Story of Arnold Rothstein

American, biopic, drama, crime film directed by Joseph M. Newman, produced by Samuel Bischoff and starring David Janssen, Dianne Foster, Diana Dors and Jack Carson. During the prohibition era the gangster Arnold Rothstein rises to be a major figure in the criminal underworld. It is also known by the alternative title The Big Bankroll. It was based on a book by Leo Katcher. 

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