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The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling23 December 2000
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.
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.
[ 6.] 1907: John H. Winn creates the modern craps layout in New York. Dubbed "The Father of Modern Craps" by John Scarne, Winn, a dice maker by trade, makes "bank craps" a successful casino game with his innovations. He letters in the "don't pass" section on the layout in Philadelphia and therefore the improved layout becomes known as the Philadelphia Layout. It is the first craps layout to offer players an opportunity to bet the dice to lose. Soon Winn adds the Big 6 and Big 8, the hardways and box or place betting squares. Winn also invents the five-percent charge for booking bets which is called "vigor" and later becomes known as vigorish or vig.
[ 7.] 1910: Nevada outlaws gambling. The temperance and antigambling forces are at fever pitch during the early part of the 20th Century and a strong effort is made on the part of the righteous to close down all dens of iniquity. The entire state of Nevada is considered the lion's den of iniquity and, in fact, it is. When all legal gambling is ended in Nevada, illegal gambling thrives. Now, who wouldn't have known that that's a sure bet?
[ 8.] 1931: Nevada re-legalizes gambling. Legal gambling? In Nevada? Can legalized booze be far behind? Just wait a couple a years, (hiccup)!
[ 9.] 1934: The Young Sign Company of Salt Lake City builds the first neon sign in Las Vegas at the Boulder Club. Tom Young, Sr. can read the future of Las Vegas and it is all lit up in bright lights with BIG lettering that says: Legalized Gambling! The town speaks to him and says: Build Big Brassy Bright Signs, Mr. Young, and "they will come" and you'll make a neon BUNDLE. He does, they do, and the desert night becomes as bright as day in some spots - and Tom Young never has to worry about money again.
[ 10.] 1935: Harold's Club opens in Reno and becomes the most popular casino in the state. This makes Reno the gaming destination in Nevada, a title it keeps for several decades.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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