It’s easy to imagine why Las Vegas is the No. 1 gaming magnet in the world. Not only does the city have more hotel rooms than any gaming establishment on the planet, it also boasts the most large-chain hotels. Casinos were first opened on Fremont Street, the original Las Vegas strip. The Golden Gate opened its doors in 1906, but the Northern Club casino was started in 1931. The Northern Club was a coffeehouse that became an illegal house for liquor and gaming. It received its state gaming license in 1931, and was later named La Bayou. The casino holds 125 video poker and slot machines, and no table games. The slot machines cash out in real money.
The longest running form of entertainment in Las Vegas was the show, “Foiles Bergere.” It began at the Tropicana. Foiles Bergere was a home for comedy, drama and song in Paris, France. The performance in Las Vegas mirrored the Foiles Bergere. The main attraction for Las Vegas were the risqué showgirls. It's no surprise that one of the most popular games at Vegas casinos is blackjack. This pulse-pounding game of skill, wit and strategy pits the player against the dealer in pursuit of the highest hand total. Blackjack popularity quickly spread like wildfire across Vegas casinos.
The Stardust casino was the first to host sports betting by way of Frank Lawrence “Lefty” Rosenthal, who boosted the Stardust to sports gambling fame. Rosenthal conducted business in secret first. The Stardust was one of four casinos controlled by the Chicago Outfit. Rosenthal was a visionary. He introduced the first female blackjack dealers to the Stardust, doubling revenue for the casino. He was eventually discovered by Las Vegas gaming officials, and a hearing was held to see if Rosenthal was a candidate for a gaming license. He was denied. His affiliation with unsavory individuals didn’t sit well with the gaming commission. Rosenthal coined the term, “casino.” The movie, “Casino” modeled Rosenthal’s life.
The MGM Grand is one of four hotels that collectively have more hotel rooms than the city of San Francisco. The Grand has over 5,000 of those guest rooms, and is the largest in the United States. Rooms take up four towers that are 30 stories high. Over 700 guest rooms are suites, and designed Hollywood-style. The hotel full service with a spa, five pools and three whirlpools, plus a waterfall and a river. The MGM Grand is also a full scale casino with a sports book facility of 5,300 square feet.
Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend, Virginia Hill, had long, skinny legs, and she loved to gamble. He nicknamed her Flamingo. In 1946, Siegel opened The Flamingo to the tune of $6 million. The luxurious Flamingo was the first of its kind on the strip, however, low revenue caused trouble for Siegel. The money had come from mob investors. He and Hill were accused of skimming from the building budget. A few months later, the casino started to show a profit. Siegel had already made his negative mark with the mob. He was shot to death at home in 1947.
A craps dealer will always hand the dice back to players with numbers other than seven on top. The game of craps has a rich history, including its name origin, “crabs” that turns into craps via the French pronunciation. Crabs used to be called Hazard. A New Orleans man simplified Hazard, and turned it into craps. The new craps had a flaw - it could be played with fixed dice via its rules. The game was amended, and players were allowed to be for or against the rollers, wiping out the need for fixed dice.
Superstitions in Las Vegas
Tourists, residents and casino owners all have superstitions. For the Chinese New Year, the senior vice president of the MGM Grand casino gives customers gaming chips, called “lucky money.” The New Year is close to the Super Bowl on the calendar, which makes for a busy time at the Grand. In one of its older towers, though, is a 13th floor, virtually unheard of in hotels. Other casinos have cut the 13th floor all together, and many jump from the 39th to the 50th floor because No. 4 is considered bad luck in China. There, the word sounds like “death.”
For the high rollers who make a request, casinos will execute dealer switches. And, if their wearing the same jacket they’ve worn every time, the dealers know they want to play well and feel lucky. Professional poker player, Annie Duke, loves gamers with superstitions because she believes it gives her an advantage. Duke encourages superstitions. Her strategies are math and skill. Not all gamers agree with Duke. A former baseball player swears by his red envelope. He has carried it for over 20 years after receiving it as a gift. He also uses the same entrance at the same casino. And he refuses to set the dice. He throws them the minute they’re in his hands without looking. Duke said this is logical to players who have superstitions. Everything they do is logical to them, she said.
More Fun Facts
Some Las Vegas hotels are haunted. In the Luxor, three men died when working on the pyramid tower. Their ghosts are said to roam the hallways near the tower. Others say the Luxor is cursed.
- Bugsy Siegel is believed to walk the gardens near his former suite at The Flamingo, always around sunset. He wasn’t shot there, but ghosts are said to come back to the places they loved.
- In the older buildings at Bally’s, roam the ghosts from a major fire, in which 84 people perished.
- The Las Vegas Hilton claims to the home of the ghost of Elvis, who is often seen backstage from where he performed.
- An actor who committed suicide may haunt the Bellagio.
- The bassist for The Who, died at the Hard Rock in 2002. He is mentioned in the list of Las Vegas ghosts.
- Stratosphere’s 1,000-foot tower is a scene of death. Four people have leaped off the tower. The last death was in 2006. The Stratosphere has installed more security alarms and fences, and stationed guards at the site, but to no avail.