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The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling27 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.
[ 31.] 1959: Baccarat is introduced into American casinos for the first time at the Dunes in Las Vegas. The very first night, gamblers wager with money, not chips, and the house loses a quarter of a million dollars. Baccarat becomes the ultimate high-roller game with millions being won and lost -- often within minutes!
[ 32.] 1960: "The Summit at the Sands" sees Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack (Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford) take Las Vegas by storm. This three-week event takes place from January 26 to February 16 just as the movie Oceans Eleven, about a daring casino-hotel robbery starring the same Rat Pack, is filmed during the day. Solidifies the Sands as the center of action in the new, swinging Las Vegas.
[ 33.] 1961: Scarne's Complete Guide to Gambling is published. It becomes a prototype for the "all-inclusive" gambling books to come.
[ 34.] 1962: Jules (Big Julie) Weintraub organizes the first junkets for high rollers to Las Vegas. From this date through 1983, Big Julie brings in some of the biggest gamblers to the Dunes Hotel Casino. Some sources estimate that he is responsible for bringing in close to a half billion dollars in casino revenues to the city. That's big.
[ 35.] 1962: Edward O. Thorp's Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One is published. This book launches the card-counting revolution as it offers a method that can actually change the mathematical expectation of blackjack to favor the player. While complicated and difficult to play, Thorp's early system of card counting sends chills running up and down the spins of casino executives who have visions of thousands of card counters descending on their casinos and wiping them out. Thorp's book actually causes the panicky casinos to change their rules of play, which begins to hurt the bottom line more than a battalion of card counters, as regular players shun the new and "deproved" game. The casinos soon revert to their former rules and, with the exception of adding games with more decks, still continue to offer some blackjack games that can be beaten by card counters.
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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