Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of Frank Scoblete
The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling13 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.
[ 21.] 1950: The Golden Nugget Gambling Hall in downtown Las Vegas introduces the "center dealer" at poker. Prior to this, players dealt their own cards in the casino poker rooms. This gives control of the game to the casinos. The "center dealer" is now standard in all poker rooms.
[ 22.] 1950-1951: Senator Estes Kefauver holds hearings into organized crime's association with casino gambling in Las Vegas. These hearings cause Nevada to tighten its requirements for casino licenses.
[ 23.] 1951: The Johnson Act passes in Congress. This act outlaws the sale and distribution of slot machines in all states except Nevada and certain jurisdictions in Idaho and Maryland. Part of the postwar crackdown on gambling.
[ 24.] 1951: The legendary Benny Binion opens the Horseshoe. This casino becomes known as the "gambler's casino" as it allows the highest bets in Vegas. The motto of Benny Binion is "your first bet is your limit." If you want to bet a million, just put it up right away and Binion will cover it. When Binion's Horseshoe opens, the normal limits at a craps table in Vegas are $50 for the maximum bet. At the Horsehoe, it's $500. When it opens it is a "carpet joint" because Benny put carpet on the floor. The casinos near it were often "sawdust joints" because they had sawdust on the floor...for the guys who missed the spittoons. I certainly don't miss the spittoons, do you?
[ 25.] 1951: Frank Sinatra makes his Las Vegas debut at the Desert Inn. Although Frankie would go on to become a Las Vegas legend, this first appearance got decidedly mixed reviews. In fact, Sinatra threatens to do it "his way" to one reviewer by inflicting severe bodily harm because the reviewer says Sinatra had just been going through the motions. The reviewer has to worry about "strangers in the night" approaching for several years after that particular review appears.
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