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The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling21 April 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.
[ 91.] 1995: "The Million Dollar Bum" goes on a tear at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. Another rags to riches to rags Las Vegas story that has now taken on the aura of legend. A smelly bum, whose wife has just kicked him out of the house, cashes in his $400 social security check and proceeds to win between 1.3 and 1.6 million dollars in a week-long orgy of good luck at the blackjack tables. The folks who deal to him and the folks who serve him say he is the rudest, crudest, but luckiest bastard they ever saw -- with the emphasis on the "b" word. At the height of his winning he alienates just about everyone he comes into contact with at Treasure Island. When he finally blows his incredible bundle (oh, yes, he loses just about all of it back to the casino), Steve Wynn steps in and has him escorted out into the neon night and into the dawn of a new Las Vegas legend.
[ 92.] 1995: The first gaming exposition for players is held in a casino. Casino Player magazine holds its first Gaming Festival on September 16 and 17 at The Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. For the first time in history, gambling's greatest authors, personalities, and theorists give seminars and sell their products inside a casino-hotel. Such gaming luminaries as Mike Caro, Anthony Curtis, Bradley Davis, Lenny Del Genio, Lenny Frome, Jim Hildebrand, Jimmy "the Scot" Jordan, Marvin B. Roffman, Paul Rubalcaba, Max Rubin, Frank Scoblete, Arnold Snyder, and Stanford Wong are in attendance. Blackjack guru Snyder is overheard saying: "I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd ever see a time when Blackjack Forum was being sold in a casino!"
[ 93.] 1996: Stanford Wong opens his Blackjack Page (www.bj21.com) on the worldwide web. It soon becomes the hottest site for discussions of blackjack strategies and analysis on the Internet.
[ 94.] 1997: Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs publish Knock-Out Blackjack! This is the first book in 30 years to offer a simplified but extremely powerful card-counting system at blackjack and it causes many card counters to switch from the count systems they have been using. What makes KO revolutionary is its ease of use in both single and multiple-deck games as there is no need to convert from the running count to the true count.
[ 95.] 1997: Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield during a championship fight and a riot ensues. In a city noted for its cheap but delicious buffets, Las Vegas sets a new low in gourmet on June 28th of 1997 when Mike Tyson savors Evander's ear, finds it wanting, and spits it out. What makes this event significant is the fact that the riots that follow as Tyson aficionados rampage through the MGM Grand, do something nothing else could ever do - they close the casino and the southern end of the Strip for several hours. Gunshots or champagne corks (take your pick) are heard exploding inside the casino as angry young men dripping with gold from tooth and nail decide to help themselves to various colored chips as they overturn blackjack tables and storm-troop their way through the casino. This event demonstrates loudly and clearly that even in Vegas, a town known for its license, things can get out of hand. Tyson's boxing license is suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his epicurean feast. MGM executives decry the riots for many days after, promise that MGM will never again create the conditions for such an event again, and then promptly host Tyson's comeback fight after his license is reissued a little more than a year later. Dinner anyone?
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 email@example.com.
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