12 WTF Facts About Vegas Mobster Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal

The history of Las Vegas is filled with colorful characters. One of the most intriguing was Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, a former casino executive and organized crime associate. Yes, “Lefty” was the ultimate multi-tasker.

Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal is one of the more famous of Sin City’s mobsters thanks to the 1995 film, “Casino,” based upon Rosenthal’s career in Vegas.

Here are 12 things we find fascinating about this man whose accomplishments included creating the first sports book operating inside a casino in Las Vegas.

1. Frank Lawrence “Lefty” Rosenthal was the first to bring sports betting into a U.S. casino, in 1976, at the Stardust.

2. Rosenthal was the first casino operator in Las Vegas to have female blackjack dealers. This casino “innovation” doubled the Stardust’s income in one year.

Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

Nobody who knew mobster Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal called him “Lefty.”

3. Rosenthal once ran the Stardust, Hacienda, Marina and Fremont casinos for the Chicago Mafia, also known as the “Outfit.” He did this without the benefit of a Nevada gaming license. (He was denied a license because of, in good part, his lifelong friendship with Chicago hitman Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro. Bonus trivia: After “Tony the Ant” came to Las Vegas, the murder rate went up 70%.)

4. When Rosenthal was denied a gaming license, he got into a confrontation with the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The chairman was none other than U.S. Senator Harry Reid. Rosenthal was added to the infamous casino “black book” in 1988, barring him from casinos for life.

5. Rosenthal was big into clothes and is rumored to have owned 200 pairs of pants. That’s nearly 1,000 in today’s pants.

6. Rosenthal was called “one of the greatest living experts on sports gambling” by Sports Illustrated.

7. At one time, “Lefty” worked as a gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Sun.  The New York Times called his column “subliterate.”

8. “Lefty” Rosenthal had a TV show. The show’s first guest was Frank Sinatra. Other celebrity guests included Bob Hope, Wayne Newton, Liberace and multiple murderer O.J. Simpson.

Frank Rosenthal

Frank Rosenthal was not a big believer in keeping things on the down-low.

9. Rosenthal’s attention to detail included making sure all muffins served in his hotel had at least 10 blueberries each.

10. Rosenthal’s nickname came from the fact he was left-handed. Some romantically claim he got the nickname when, in 1961, he appeared before a Senate hearing on organized crime and invoked the Fifth Amendment 37 times, keeping his left hand in the air while doing so.

11. In the movie “Casino,” Rosenthal survives an attempt on his life when his car exploded. That incident actually took place, and Rosenthal survived because of a manufacturing irregularity in his 1981 Cadillac Eldorado.

12. Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal died of a heart attack at age 79 in Miami Beach in 2008. After his death, it was revealed Rosenthal had been, talk about multi-tasking, an FBI informant. His FBI code name was “Achilles.”

Frank Rosenthal remains one of the most riveting figures in the formative years of Las Vegas. He seems to have had as many admirers as critics, and helped shape Las Vegas casinos as we know them today. If he hadn’t started the whole female dealer thing, we might not have go-go dealers today, a practice which also has as many admirers as critics. Ah, the circularity of the universe.

12 thoughts on “12 WTF Facts About Vegas Mobster Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal

  1. NBM

    As a tailor/ designer, fact #5 is really weird…I didn’t realise inflationary increments applied to a man’s wardrobe, LOL! How did you reach that calculation if I may ask, I am truly intrigued…?!

  2. Drew Orye

    I think it was sometime back in 1995….about the time the film….Casino….was out….I served “Lefty” a Subpoena for Deposition…..in Boca Ration, Florida at a Bar called “Crocs” on Glades Road…which I believe he was “running” for a relative/owner. I had the book…Casino…with me and after a short conversation, him and I had while we sat at the Bar….he autographed the book for me. The details of the entire conversation/meeting were “somewhat” bizarre and interesting. I was in the last year or two of my career with the Sherriff’s Dept as a Deputy.

  3. Slimkeith

    You gotta love that you took inflation into account when figuring out the worth of his pants years later. This was a horrible man-a brute who beat his wife in real life. The film portrayed “Ginger” as the sick one meanwhile he was beating her and took away their children. This was an evil man.

    1. Kanye East

      I forgot who the local female reporter is who said it, but she covered the Las Vegas scene in Lefty’s era and said she wasn’t scared at all of Spilotro, but Rosenthal truly spooked her.

  4. Arnold Handelman

    Because Lefty was Jewish, he was an associate and not a member of the Mafia. But he had a weird free access to mob bosses, whereas Italians would have to deal with buffers, like Capos. Lefty was such a good handicapper that he got the two mob bosses to put up $5,000. each to be partners with him in betting. He put up $5,000 also. He had the $15,000, of his own money, but he wanted the bosses to actually contribute cash. It was unusual because usually they got pieces of action for free, or laid out cash on “juice” or “vig”. In one college basketball season, Lefty ran that $15,000. up to $600,000, even after absorbing some losses. So each mob boss got $200,000 back for their $5,000 investment. Is there any wonder that they loved him? sometimes referred to as the golden Jew, but always with respect and admiration for being such an earner.

  5. Arnold Handelman

    Expert handicapper and gambler Lem Banker, was friends with Lefty Rosenthal. Lem had contacts that supplied him with insider info re sporting events, which Lem paid for by placing a bet for the tipper. So he operated much like his friend Lefty.

    One time, Lem got a phone call very early in the morning, telling him that 3 starting basketball players were sitting out the game taking place that day. Lem called a bookie, told him that he had heard that 3 top players, starters, were not playing that day, and he wanted to bet $10,000. on the other team. The bookie told Lem he could be more. So Lem upped the bet to $30,000. That was the equivalent today of maybe $400,000 or more. Lem won the bet, but the bookie refused to pay him. Lem happened to be talking to Lefty later. He told Lefty about the story and that welching bookie. Lefty said, don’t worry, sit tight, that bookie will deliver your money tomorrow morning. Sure enough, the bookie dropped off the money to Lem the next morning. Lefty had called the guy, and he was obviously scared of Lefty’s reputation as being wired into the Italian mob.

  6. John Motto long retired

    I was in LV for a weekend one 80’s summer at the LV Hilton with my family when I rec’d a call from a LA attorney. He told me Lefty wanted to talk to me to get my Okay to open a sports book in LA. I agreed to meet at the Hilton bar with a representative of Lefty for a discussion. The rep called and we agreed on a time and he asked how he would recognize me and I said I would know him. We had a drink and a talk about who we were and who we knew. I then gave my standard answer that I couldn’t give my permission for them to commit a felony but if they decided to open a book in LA I need to know everyone involved and be kept up to date on all the details. During the entire meeting I observed 7/8 “Interested Parties “ keeping me under surveillance. When the meeting ended I was followed up in the elevator by 2/3 guys in suits (100+) outside. I ditched them at first and then I told them who I was and that I had my Department’s permission to make the meeting.


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