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The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling3 March 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.
[ 56.] 1978: Doyle Brunson publishes Super System: How I Made Over $1,000,000 Playing Poker. This book is considered by poker aficionados as one of the best poker books of all time. Brunson is a World Champion and a legendary high-stakes Las Vegas poker icon and he marshals the knowledge of many of poker's top experts for this comprehensive analysis of the game. Still in print in a new edition.
[ 57.] 1978: Resorts International Hotel Casino opens in Atlantic City. It is characterized by long lines on weekdays, weekend lines that stretch almost a mile down the boardwalk, people packed in like sardines, players six deep waiting for a chance to play blackjack and slots -- but it is the herald that sounds the clarion call that the national gambling explosion is about to begin with Resorts as the spark.
[ 58.] 1978: The first major tournament in blackjack is played at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. Sponsored by an organization called "The World Championship of Blackjack," the tournament is the brainchild of Ed Fishman and offers $250,000 in total prize money with $75,000 going to the eventual winner. Over the years, blackjack tournaments are held successfully at many properties and become an added incentive for players to patronize the casinos that offer them.
[ 59.] 1979: IGT (International Game Technology) introduces its "Draw Poker" machine, which becomes the standard for machines of this type. Draw poker machines are not like slot machines because skilled players can make choices that reduce the house edge, whereas unskilled players can increase the house edge based on how they play their hands. This skill aspect of video poker will be the reason for the explosion of video poker play that we are now seeing at the end of the 20th Century. In fact, some video poker machines can yield a player a positive expectation - if the player plays the right strategy.
[ 60.] 1980: The devastating MGM Grand fire occurs. On the morning of November 21, 1980, 84 people die (some accounts say 85) and 679 are injured in the biggest casino-hotel fire in American history. Three months later, in February 1981, the Las Vegas Hilton has a fire that kills eight people and injures over 600. These two fires are largely responsible for the Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990, which requires all hotel and motel rooms and halls to have automatic sprinkler systems and emergency plans posted. The report of the MGM Grand fire states that had the hotel installed automatic sprinklers the fire would have simply caused the sprinklers to cause some water damage due to a "puddle" in the hallway. One odd fact concerning the MGM fire is that many gamblers refused to leave the games in the casino and have to be ordered out of the building! The MGM Grand is now Bally's.
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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