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The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling20 January 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.
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.
[ 26.] 1955: Harrah's purchases George's Gateway Club in Lake Tahoe and with smart management and insightful public relations helps to make Tahoe a great gaming destination. Harrah's ultimately becomes one of the big players in the gaming boom of the 1990s.
[ 27.] 1956: Viva Las Vegas! Elvis Presley -- the King, ole swivel hips, Mr. Las Vegas -- makes his debut at the New Frontier. As time passes, Elvis becomes more and more a part of the Las Vegas lore and his costumes become almost as glitzy as the town itself. While Frankie and Dino and Sammy and the other Rat Pack members may have owned the town for a short while, Elvis transcends it, becoming the divinity that watches over all. In fact, there are still more Elvis impersonators in Vegas (and the world) than any other singer-celebrity. And, of course, Elvis is still alive, isn't he?
[ 28.] 1956: Roger Baldwin, Wilbert E. Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James P. McDermott publish "The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack" in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. A breakthrough paper, this contains the first Basic Strategy for the game of blackjack and becomes the foundation for all basic strategies that are to follow. It garners very little attention at the time of its publication but, like the butterfly flapping its wings in Japan can ultimately cause a hurricane to develop in the Gulf, this paper becomes the launching pad for the first serious and sustained attack by players on a casino game that can yield the players a mathematical edge.
[ 29.] 1957: Gamblers Anonymous is founded to help those with gambling problems. Today this organization has chapters throughout the country. Some casino aficionados are resentful of G.A. because they mistakenly think that G.A. unnecessarily highlights the evils of gambling. There are no evils to gambling, it is a morality-neutral activity -- but there are evils when individuals cannot control themselves and subsequently ruin their lives through an addiction. For the overwhelming majority of casino players who enjoy gambling as a hobby, and to the minority of players who can actually make long-term profits from casino gambling, Gamblers Anonymous speaks not. But to the individuals who are out of control, G.A. offers the hand of friendship and self-help.
[ 30.] 1959: The number 10 hits six times in a row at roulette at the El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico. What are the odds of the 10 hitting six times in a row? The odds of this happening are 3,010,936,383 to one! Place your bets.
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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