Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal – Las Vegas Casino ‘executive’ with a history of ties to the Chicago Mob – died on October 13 2008, of natural causes. Rosenthal rose from meager roots in Chicago to major player in the gambling underworld of Las Vegas. Not entirely unscathed, but ousted from any involvement with Las Vegas, Nevada due to his affiliations with organized crime, he relocated to Florida into quasi-retirement. His later years entailed a less sinister involvement in the virtual world of online sports betting. He operated his own website and conducted offshore sports betting consulting prior to his passing at age 79. His Las Vegas legacy will, however, live on. This is his fascinating story!
The Rise and Fall of an Empire
Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal was born in Chicago, Illinois at the tail end of the bustling 1920’s, a time when the Italian Mafia was establishing a stronghold in organized crime and a criminal underworld that would eventually lead Rosenthal to Las Vegas. Rosenthal acquired a propensity for gambling at an early age when he learned about sports betting behind the scenes at Wrigley Field. Rosenthal was studious but not in the formal classroom – he was known to skip out of school to immerse him in another type of education. His gambling expertise lent itself to his inception into the Chicago Outfit by the mid 1950’s.
Rosenthal’s early years were spent running the largest illegal bookmaking operation in the United States. Located originally in Cicero, just outside of Chicago he was the alleged mastermind behind numerous arrangements to fix sporting events. In the mid-1950’s he was formally indicted for sports bribery charges at which time he relocated his Mob-associated operation to Miami, Florida. Rosenthal spent the better part of the 1960’s acquiring a reputation as an organized crime aficionado frequently arrested for illegal gambling and bookmaking. Also suspected of several car and business bombings in the Miami area throughout the 1960’s.
Rosenthal was only convicted one time. Rosenthal decided to plead the Fifth - taking advantage of his Fifth Amendment rights during a Senate hearing in which he was accused of match fixing. Rosenthal was the mystery man behind the operations at four Las Vegas casinos during the Mafia’s reign over Vegas in the late-1960’s and early-1970’s. Rosenthal’s gambling genius gave way to the first ‘in-house’ sportsbook which he operated out of the Stardust Casino – putting the Stardust on the map of world gambling leaders. In addition, Rosenthal transformed the gaming scenery and doubled the Stardust’s annual income when he added female blackjack dealers to the venue.
In 1976 Rosenthal was under scrutiny yet again when Nevada authorities became aware that he was operating several casinos without a license. Thanks to his less-than-impeccable reputation, history of affiliation with organized crime, and close ties with childhood friend and suspected hitman Anthony Spilotro, he was blacklisted in Nevada. Following a near-death experience when his Cadillac was bombed in 1982 and unable to obtain a gaming license in Nevada, Rosenthal headed back to Florida. Rosenthal and childhood comrade Spilotro were added to Nevada’s “Black Book” of exclusion – forbidden to operate, manage, or enter any Nevada casinos as his reign in Vegas came to a close.
Mafia-Style Las Vegas
As the era of Vegas as a sinister hot-bed of Mafia-driven corruption came to an end in favor of a more commercialized and legitimate realm of entertainment, Rosenthal found himself on the southeast coast once again. Leaving behind a reputation for illegal gambling ventures and unsavory mob connections from the West Coast to the East Coast Rosenthal left the criminal underworld behind him. He eventually settled in Miami, Florida where he took up work as a consultant for several companies that conducted offshore betting, in addition to managing his own sports betting website. Rosenthal was the inspiration for the movie 1995 movie ‘Casino’, a Martin Scorsese film that was based on his life of crime during the Vegas years. The movie Casino brought to life the tale of disreputable racketeering, illegal schemes, corruption and violence, along with sordid details of his failed marriage to Geraldine McGee.
Scenes in the movie Casino depict the real-life betrayal of childhood friend Anthony Spilotro who had an affair with Rosenthal’s wife who later died in a Las Angeles, California hotel of an apparent drug overdose. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was at one time Rosenthal’s attorney and speaks no ill of the late mobster. According to Goodman, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal treated him with the utmost respect. Goodman expressed that Rosenthal may have had a poor reputation with law enforcement and a good many people who did not favor him, but Goodman personally never had any problems with this legendary Mafioso. Prior to his death in 2008 Rosenthal informed reporters at the Miami Herald that there are no secrets to winning when it comes to gambling. Rather, it takes an extraordinary amount of self-discipline and comes with a lifestyle that involves much personal sacrifice and potentially tumultuous roads to the top.