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The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling

24 February 2001

What is the leisure time activity that more adult Americans participate in than any other? Going to movies? No. Playing softball? No. Golf? No. Bowling? Come on! Tennis? Oh, my aching elbow! Stamp collecting? No. Coin collecting? You're getting colder. Quilting? Sure, that's big with the truckers. Reading great literature? Ha! Ha! Ice cold. Freezing.

Think! Over 130 million people participated in this activity last year. Adult people. People with money. Yes, Virginia, I even saw a guy in a Santa Claus suit doing it last Christmas.

It's gambling.

From kitchen poker games to sports and horse betting, to dogs and dominoes, more people gamble than do just about anything else other than eat, sleep, work and make more people.

And the biggest draw in the world of gambling is unquestionably casino gambling. The 20th Century has seen an explosion in legal casino gambling unequaled in the history of man. Las Vegas has gone from a sleepy little desert town to a sprawling metropolis. Atlantic City has been resurrected. Tiny delta counties such as Tunica have become giant pools of money. Riverboats ply the waves up and down the Midwest. And Indian casinos are changing the concept of the word reservation from a holding area for an oppressed people to: "We'll gladly take your reservation. Will that be a suite or a deluxe room, sir?"

No question, casino gambling was all the rage as our 20th Century and the Second Millennium came to a close and it does not show any signs of slowing down as the 21st Century and Third Millennium begin.

As with any activity of mankind, the people, places, and things of 20th Century casino gambling fill many volumes. Picking the top 100 events was not an easy task. I had plenty of help from a diversity of sources, many of which I list at the end of the article. Just about every gaming writer I asked to contribute his or her ideas was more than happy to help me out with this herculean effort. Not everyone wanted to be listed as a source and I have respected their anonymity. I give each and every one who helped me compile this list, whether credited or not, a sincere thank you. I couldn't have done it without them.

I am sure that for just about every event I have included, some reader can make a good argument for why I should not have included it but, instead, have included something else in its place. That's the nature of lists.

In my opinion, every event on this list has had an impact on casino gambling in some way, either directly (the creation of Megabucks), or indirectly (Howard Hughes moves to Las Vegas and buys seven casinos), or tangentially (Hoover Dam is completed). Some of the events have helped to create and promulgate casino lore, some simply made splashy headlines. But all were big in the casino scheme of things in my estimation as they have added to the mystique of casinos or casino towns.

Here goes:

[ 51.] 1975: The Union Plaza in downtown Las Vegas opens the first modern sports book inside a casino. Bob Martin is the oddsmaker. Later that same year, the Stardust opens its sports book.

[ 52.] 1976: Bally's introduces a Video Draw Poker machine.

[ 53.] 1976: New Jersey legalizes casino gambling for Atlantic City. For years the New Jersey legislature debates the idea of legalizing casino gambling in the rapidly deteriorating Atlantic City. Every year, the bill is defeated. Finally, with the Queen of Resorts looking more like a decaying drag-queen on a bad hair day, the legislature relents and allows gaming in Atlantic City. Is a make-over for the Queen in the cards? You bet.

[ 54.] 1977: Ken Uston and Roger Rapaport publish The Big Player. A phenomenally popular book at the time of its publication, this book chronicles the exciting and true adventures of Ken Uston in the casinos and brings the concept of "team play" to the public consciousness for the first time. Here is a sample of how a team can work: A group of blackjack players will enter a casino. Relatively small stakes players will take seats at various tables and count the cards and play the hands according to basic strategy. When the shoe becomes favorable to the player, a small-stakes player will signal the "big player" to jump into the game and make large bets, often table maximum bets of $500 to $2,000. When the shoe becomes unfavorable, the big player (also known as the BP) will leave the table and "wander" around the casino waiting for the next signal from another small-stakes player at another table. It is a remarkably effective system that garners Uston's teams over five million dollars in profit - until the casinos catch on. Because of this and other high profile blackjack activities, Ken Uston becomes the most famous blackjack player of all time and his adventures are still the stuff of legend. He goes on to write several other popular blackjack books as well including Million Dollar Blackjack and Ken Uston on Blackjack. [The Big Player is out of print.]

[ 55.] 1977: Gambling Times Magazine makes its debut. Stanley Sludikoff, also known as blackjack expert Stanley Roberts, assembles a first-rate cadre of gaming writers including Ken Uston, Julian Braun, and Edward O. Thorp, and launches the first popular, slick national gaming magazine. Changes its name to Win magazine in the 1990s and loses its subscription base. [No longer published.]

Recent Articles
Best of Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

Baccarat Battle Book

> More Books By Frank Scoblete