|Frank Lawrence Rosenthal|
June 12, 1929|
|Died||October 13, 2008
Miami Beach, Florida
|Spouse(s)||Geri McGee (1969-1981)|
Frank Lawrence "Lefty" Rosenthal (June 12, 1929 – October 13, 2008) was a professional sports bettor, former Las Vegas casino executive, and organized crime associate. The 1995 Martin Scorsese film Casino is based on his career in Las Vegas.
Rosenthal, born in Chicago, grew up in the city's West Side. As a youth, Rosenthal learned sports betting in the bleachers of Wrigley Field and would often skip classes to attend Chicago sporting events. By the mid-1950s, he was working with the Chicago Outfit. Chosen for his gambling ability, Rosenthal ran the biggest illegal bookmaking office in the US on behalf of the American Mafia. Based in Cicero, Illinois under the guise of the Cicero Home Improvement company, the Outfit and Rosenthal bought "contracts" from sports bribers to fix sporting events.
By 1961, Rosenthal had acquired a national reputation as a sports bettor, oddsmaker, and handicapper and was frequently seen in the company of prominent Chicago Outfit members Jackie Cerone and Fiore Buccieri while living in Miami. At this time Rosenthal was issued with a subpoena to appear before U.S. Senator John McClellan's subcommittee on Gambling and Organized Crime, accused of match fixing. He invoked the Fifth Amendment 37 times and was never charged. Due to this, he was barred from racing establishments in Florida.
Despite his frequent arrests for illegal gambling and bookmaking, Rosenthal was convicted only once, after pleading no contest in 1963, for allegedly bribing a New York University player to shave points for a college basketball game in North Carolina. Rosenthal was also a suspect in multiple business and car bombings in the greater Miami area during the 1960s. It was at this time the FBI opened an ongoing case file on Rosenthal which amassed to 300 pages. Once again to escape police attention, Rosenthal moved to Las Vegas in 1968.
Las Vegas career
A pioneer of sports gambling, Rosenthal secretly ran the Stardust, Fremont, Marina and Hacienda casinos when they were controlled by the Chicago Outfit. He also created the first sports book that operated from within a casino, making the Stardust one of the world's leading centers for sports gambling. Another Rosenthal innovation was to allow female blackjack dealers, which in one year doubled the Stardust's income.
In 1976, when authorities discovered that Rosenthal was secretly running casinos without a Nevada gaming license, they held a hearing to determine his legal ability to obtain one. Rosenthal was quickly denied a license because of his unsavory reputation as an organized crime associate, particularly because of his boyhood friendship with Chicago hitman Anthony Spilotro.
Rosenthal married Geri McGee on May 4, 1969. She had a daughter, Robin L. Marmor, prior to their marriage (fathered by Lenny Marmor), and Frank and Geri had two children together, Steven and Stephanie. The marriage ended in divorce, with Rosenthal's attributing the failure primarily to McGee's inability to escape her alcohol and drug addictions. After leaving Rosenthal and stealing a significant portion of his savings, Geri died at a motel in Los Angeles on November 9, 1982, at age 46, of an apparent drug overdose. Her death was ruled accidental, from a combination of Valium, cocaine, and alcohol.
Later years and death
Rosenthal survived an October 1982 assassination attempt in Las Vegas, in which a car bomb (attached to the gasoline tank) was detonated when he started his car. He survived only because of a manufacturing irregularity that was unique to his particular vehicle (a 1981 Cadillac Eldorado): a metal plate under the driver's seat (which General Motors installed to correct a balancing problem), which shielded Rosenthal's body from most of the explosion's force. Although no one was ever charged for this assassination attempt, Milwaukee mob boss Frank Balistrieri was most likely responsible. Balistrieri, who was known as the "Mad Bomber" to law enforcement, was heard (via wiretap) blaming Rosenthal for the legal problems the mob-controlled casinos were suffering. Similarly, just weeks before the bombing, Balistrieri told his sons he intended to get "full satisfaction" for Rosenthal's perceived wrongdoing. Other suspects included Spilotro (either acting alone, or on behalf of the Chicago Outfit), and outlaw bikers who were friends of Rosenthal's ex-wife, Geri.
Rosenthal left Las Vegas a few months later and retired to Laguna Niguel, California. He was formally banned from Las Vegas in 1987, when he was placed in "the Black Book," making him persona non grata – unable to work in, or even enter, any Nevada casino because of his alleged ties to organized crime. Rosenthal later moved from Laguna Niguel, to Boca Raton, Florida, and finally, Miami Beach, where he ran a sports betting website and worked as a consultant for several offshore sports betting companies. He died on October 13, 2008 at the age of 79 of natural causes.
In popular culture
In the film Casino the character of Sam "Ace" Rothstein (played by Robert De Niro) is largely based on Rosenthal's time in Las Vegas and his relationship with Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro, on which the character Nicky Santoro (played by Joe Pesci) is based. The character of Ginger McKenna Rothstein, his wife in the film (played by Sharon Stone), is based on Geri McGee, Rosenthal's wife in real life.
- Cohen, Benyamin (July–August 2005). "Church Diaries". American Jewish Life. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
- Morrison, Jane Ann (October 30, 2008). "'Lefty' Rosenthal was an FBI snitch". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
- Pileggi, Nicholas (1995). Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. pp. 24–25, 65, 69–70, 97–100, 175, 195–197, 348. ISBN 0-684-80832-3.
- Rosen, Charley (2001). The Wizard Of Odds: How Jack Molinas almost destroyed the game of basketball. pp. 162–233.
- "Frank Rosenthal FBI File". Retrieved 2011-12-21.
- Morrison, Jane Ann (2008-10-18). "JANE ANN MORRISON: Spilotro was merely a killer; Lefty mastered the more frightening Glare". Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- Smith, John L. (2003). Of Rats and Men: Oscar Goodman's Life from Mob Mouthpiece to Mayor of Las Vegas. p. 147.
- Frank Rosenthal at the Internet Movie Database
- Official Website
- Nevada Gaming Commission's List of Excluded Persons now-defunct listing at the Wayback Machine (archived April 23, 2007)
- "Frank Rosenthal". Find a Grave. Retrieved June 14, 2013.