Gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, but it wasn't until years later that sports betting would become commonplace across the state. Before gambling, Nevada was in big economic trouble. The state's main industry had been mining, but that trade had diminished by the late 1800s, and Nevada was in a dire financial situation. Most of the state's cities, which had boomed during the mining apex, were virtual ghost towns. Reno was the state's biggest city with approximately 15,000 residents, and Las Vegas had nearly 5,000 citizens. But legalized gambling, boxing, effortless divorce and prostitution made Nevada an attractive tourist destination. The economic condition changed dramatically -- almost overnight -- once gambling was added to the state's coffers.

While casino-style gambling was deemed legal, sports betting was still illegal until a regulation was passed by Congress in 1951 imposing a 10 percent tax on all sports bets. Of course, in an atmosphere that revolved around gambling, it was probably not difficult for visitors or residents to find someone to take a bet before the new law was passed. But the new regulations allowed the bookmakers to come out from the shadows and work their trade openly in the public eye.

The first legal sports books in Nevada were stand-alone shops which were independent from any of the large casinos. They were called “turf clubs” and had names like the Del Mar, Churchill Downs and the Rose Bowl. These small operations were sometimes referred to as “sawdust rooms” because of the wood chips that were spread across the floor to soak up spilled beer and to remove some of the foul odors. Betting options were posted on chalkboards and cigar smoke was heavy in the air.


Enter Frank Lawrence “Lefty” Rosenthal. Known as one of the best sports handicappers in the business and the inspiration for the movie "Casino," Rosenthal could be described as anything but boring. From his beginnings as the child of immigrant parents living in Chicago, Illinois to his rise as the boss of the famous Stardust casino on the Las Vegas strip, “Lefty” Rosenthal’s life was filled with intrigue and mystery.


He was born Frank Lawrence Rosenthal on June 12, 1929 to Jewish parents living on the west side of Chicago. One of his childhood friends from Chicago, Anthony Spilotro, would later follow Frank Rosenthal to Las Vegas as a mob enforcer. Growing up in the rough neighborhoods of Chicago’s west side, Frank soon became well acquainted with the life of crime. His connections with Spilotro gained him the attention of the Chicago Mob bosses, and he was tapped to run several Las Vegas casinos as front man for the mob syndicate.


“Lefty” Rosenthal quickly began to show his leadership abilities as he created several profitable money making opportunities for the mob within the casino. He was very analytical and was able to predict the outcome of sporting events with great consistency. This made him a much sought-after sports handicapper. Rosenthal became the first to operate a sports book within a casino, and also increased the casino’s profits greatly by hiring women to become blackjack dealers.


His abilities and connections with the mob bosses from Chicago grew until he was entrusted with running not only the Stardust casino, but also the Fremont, Marina, and Hacienda casinos as well. He was able to run all four businesses at a time when most casino bosses had trouble just running one. However, he was running this empire without a Nevada gaming license, and soon drew the attention of the gaming board.


After the Nevada Gaming Commission held a hearing in 1976, it was determined that Rosenthal would not be issued a license. A few years later after appealing the decision, a license was finally issued to Frank Rosenthal by a "friendly" judge. Numerous attempts were made to have Rosenthal’s name placed in the infamous "black book" which would prevent him from not only running a casino, but being anywhere near or involved with one.


Over the next several years, Rosenthal ran the Stardust casino for his mob bosses and would experience many ups and downs which would be documented in the movie "Casino" starring Robert DeNiro. DeNiro’s character would be based on the real life activities of Lefty Rosenthal.


In 1982, “Lefty” Rosenthal survived an assassination attempt when a bomb was placed under his Cadillac El Dorado. The attempt was unsuccessful due to a metal plate that GM had installed under the driver’s seat of their Cadillac models.


In 1988, the Nevada Gaming Commission was finally successful in having Lawrence Rosenthal’s name added to the black book, and he was banned from any casino activity. He would retire in Miami Beach, Florida until his death in 2008.


My Footnote Editorial: Frank Rosenthal had to be brilliant. In addition to his incredible sports handicapping ability, he is responsible for making casinos so much more profitable by giving sports wagering a home within the casinos. Rosenthal essentially took sports betting off the street. Race and sports books, as they are known in Vegas casinos, make lots of money. Their business has been adversely affected by on-line betting and this recession. However, the success the casino books enjoy can be directly traced back to the ingenuity and foresight of the Vegas visionary, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal.




By Lance Pugmire. L.A. Times. 11-22-2009.


Gamblers know going in that the bright lights, marble tile floors and hospitable employees in this city are paid for on the broken dreams of bettors. That's part of the pull that keeps them coming back -- the challenge of beating the Man.


However, on Oct. 25, Week 7 of the NFL season, the corporate types running the mighty Las Vegas sports books found themselves trapped in the unpleasant reality many have experienced in Sin City -- paying out far more than planned and begging for mercy.


Most gamblers bet favorites in NFL games, and that Sunday almost every favored team covered the point spread. "Every sports book director in this town was on his knees crying uncle," said Jay Kornegay, director of the Las Vegas Hilton's race and sports book. "Black Sunday," he called it, his worst in 22 years, noting he paid $3,000 to a 65-year-old woman holding five $2 NFL parlay bets.


All told, the city's sports books lost about $8.5 million that day, said Jay Rood, director of the city's largest sports and race book, MGM/Mirage. The losses could have been twice as big, he said, except the underdog Arizona Cardinals beat the New York Giants that Sunday night. "One of the worst NFL weekends in the history of Nevada," Rood said.


Football is the key sport for Las Vegas sports books, with NFL bets accounting for about 28% of their business each year, and college football next at about 19%. The last three NFL weekends have featured "some good Sundays," Kornegay said, without giving his casino's profits.


And Las Vegas was busy last weekend, too, thanks to the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto fight. Boxing, college football, the NFL, the NBA, the start of the college basketball season and an Ultimate Fighting Championship card all gave Las Vegas sports books their busiest Saturday of the year, Kornegay said.


But overall, the recession is hurting the Las Vegas sports books, with their revenue down about 10% from 2007. Rood said he took two $250,000 bets on Pacquiao to beat Cotto, but in most cases, "the $300 bettor is now a $200 bettor." Las Vegas has suffered greatly during this economic downturn, race and sports books included.




By David Payne. Covers. 4-14-2010.


St. Louis Rams Win Super Bowl XXXIV. (300-to-1)


The "Greatest Show on Turf" would have never been born if Rams coach Dick Vermeil would have gotten his way. After a 4-12 campaign in 1998, Vermeil was still in love with quarterback Tony Banks. That’s the same Tony Banks who reportedly skipped the team flight home after an embarrassing 14-0 loss to Miami and missed practice because his dog died.


In a rare occurrence, Mike Martz, who at the time was the Redskins quarterback coach, was the voice of reason. When the Rams offered him the chance to become offensive coordinator, Martz refused unless Banks was gone and Trent Green was signed. Green had been the ‘Skins QB under Martz.


Martz got his way and then some.


In the off season, the Rams acquired Marshall Faulk from the Colts for a second and fourth-round pick, signed Green and drafted wide receiver Torry Holt out of North Carolina State in the first round.

So expectations were up, until Green suffered a season-ending knee injury on what most perceived to be a dirty hit by Rodney Harrison in a pre-season game.


That left Vermeil with a back-up quarterback out of the Arena League named Kurt Warner. Expectations were down and it seemed laughable when Vermeil said, “We will rally around Kurt Warner.”


But Vegas wasn’t laughing when Warner led the Rams on a bookie-killing run that saw them go 13-3 straight up and against the spread.


They capped off the run with a thrilling 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. On the game’s final play, Titans’ receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled one yard short of the end zone by Mike Jones.


1991 World Series: The Books’ Worst Nightmare. (Almost 300-to-1)


Featuring a pair of worst-to-first teams in the Twins and Braves, the bookies were going to lose some cash either way. Before the season, both the Twins and Braves were between “300-to-1 and 200-to-1” to win the World Series, according to sports book manager Jeff Stonebeck of the Las Vegas Hilton.


And why wouldn’t they be? Before 1991, no team had ever won a pennant after finishing last the previous season. In 1990, the Twins finished 14 games under .500 and were 29 games out in their division. The Braves were worse, losing 97 games in 1990.


Naturally, the Twins and Braves followed up dreadful season by stunning the baseball world by reaching the World Series and crushing sports books everywhere.


Greece 2004 UEFA Euro. (150-to-1)


Having never won a match at a major tournament, few football fans were eagerly jumping a Greece bandwagon that, frankly, no one knew even existed. Hence, the plump odds.


It will be a while before Greece backers enjoy that kind of odds again. The Greeks turned Euro 2004 into a coming-out party. They knocked off favorite France and twice beat Portugal, including in the finals.


The Cinderella run to the title sparked an interest in Greek football and earned global respect. Greece shot up from 35th to 14th in the FIFA World Rankings, one of the biggest jumps in a single month ever.


Tampa Bay Rays 2008 American League Champs. (125-to-1)


In perhaps the most rewarding name change in history, the Tampa Bay Devils Rays became the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 – and won the American League pennant.


Since its inception in 1998, Tampa Bay seemed destined to become the Clippers of MLB. The Rays finished last in nine of their first 10 seasons. In 2007, the Devils Rays were the worst team in baseball and were stuck in the toughest division, the AL East.


But, while they were getting trounced in their infant years, they were also feeding off greedy heavyweights who were willing to give away young talent to win immediately. In 2008, all that young talent blossomed. They stunned baseball by winning the division and knocking off the mighty Red Sox to reach the World Series.


“At the beginning of the season, the Rays were 125-to-1 to win the American league and a whopping 300-to-1 to win the World Series,” said Bodog.com oddsmaker Richard Gardner. “While the Rays went on to win the AL that year, things could have been much worse if they went on to win the World Series. It is still the biggest loss on futures that I have seen in my time in the industry.”


1913 Kentucky Derby. (91-to-1)


At 91-to-1, Donerail is the biggest long shot to win in Kentucky Derby history. Donerail paid $184.90 on a $2 bet, while setting a track record of 2:04 4/5. His career earnings only amounted to $15,156.