Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of Frank Scoblete
The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling6 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.
[ 16.] 1944: Mickey MacDougal publishes the very first blackjack card-counting system in his book MacDougal on Dice and Cards. This is almost 20 years before Edward O. Thorp would turn the casino world upside down with his own card-counting revolution.
[ 17.] 1944: The first big star plays Las Vegas. Her name is Sophie Tucker and the Last Frontier Hotel bags her for a two week engagement. And, in that same year in that same casino, the city's first wedding chapel opens - The Little Church of the West. Talk about foreshadowing the future of Las Vegas!
[ 18.] 1946: Bugsy Siegel opens the Flamingo Hotel Casino on "the Strip." This casino comes at the right time and in the right place as the postwar boom puts Las Vegas and "the Strip" on the map. The year after this resort opens, Bugsy's business associates take him off the map!
[ 19.] 1949: Scarne on Cards by John Scarne is published. Scarne is considered the premier gaming writer of the first half century and, while some of his strategies have been shown to be erroneous in light of computer analyses of some games, he is still considered a must read for gaming aficionados.
[ 20.] 1949: Nick "the Greek" Dandalos and poker legend Johnny Moss go head-to-head in an unofficial world's championship match. The match lasts over five months and the two opponents play for days at a time without sleep. All forms of poker are included. Both men exchange the lead and gaze at each other like warriors from behind their walls of chips. Finally, the Greek wins, just like the Trojan war.
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.
Best of Frank Scoblete