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The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling

28 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.

It's gambling.

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.

Here goes:

[ 96.] 1997: Australian billionaire, Kerry Packer wins 20 million dollars over several days at MGM Grand in Las Vegas and several casino executives get the axe for reeling in this big whale who sinks their quarterly earnings report. Or he wins 30 million dollars with the same axing and red ink taking place. Or he wins 40 million dollars and Paul Bunyon's axe cleaves the careers of several cringing casino ex-execs and the red ink flows like blood in the movie Jaws. Take your pick because all kinds of stories are making the rounds on this one, but one thing is certain: something big and Bunyonesque went down at the MGM. And the myth of Australia's gambling media tycoon just gets bigger and bigger with a capital "b" as in baccarat and blackjack, his preferred games. Here's the stuff of legends: Kerry is said to have tipped one waitress a house! Yes, he buys a house for one nice cocktail server (or he pays off her mortgage in another version). Try this one: A loud and obnoxious Texas high roller is playing at the same table as Mr. Packer. This man is being as obnoxious as, well, as the stereotypical obnoxious Texan in countless obnoxious Texan stories. [Hey, how come there aren't any obnoxious Rhode Islander stories?] Finally, Kerry asks the man to ease up. The man gets louder: "Do you know who I am? I am worth 60 million dollars, pardner!" He pauses to let this sink in, then says: "Sixty million dollars, pardner. That's what I'm worth." Packer eyes him and says: "I'll flip you for it!" Are these tall tales true? Did Babe Ruth point to the outfield fence and then hit it over? Who knows? Who cares? Legends are true if you believe they are. Packer is the Bambino of baccarat.

[ 97.] 1998: The world's largest slot jackpot to date, $27,582,539, is hit on a Megabucks machine at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The date is Sunday, November 15. The winner requests anonymity. You can understand why. She probably does not want anyone touching her to rub some of her luck off. A month previously this same woman, a retired flight attendant in her mid-60s, had hit for more than $680,000 on The Wheel of Fortune at the same casino. Who says luck doesn't run in streaks? If you are counting, this particular jackpot is the 47th Megabucks to be won in Nevada since its inception in 1986 (the 48th and second biggest jackpot ever, 21.35 million dollars, was won in June of 1999). How many Megabucks jackpots have been won across the country since 1986? One hundred three hopefully happy millionaires have shared a total of approximately $444,171,366 between them.

[ 98.] 1999: Bellagio opens. Steve Wynn raises the bar for elegance and tone by opening what many people consider to be the best hotel/casino in the world. Unfortunately for Mr. Wynn, one Charles Lund figures out a way to get an edge on some Bellagio slot machines! Lund becomes the first non-cheating slot player to be barred from a casino! The high-end openings continue as in quick succession Mandalay Bay, The Venetian, and Paris join the Vegas skyline, while The Resort at Summerlin brings glamor to the outback of Nevada and Beau Rivage dazzles the folks in Biloxi. The new casino thinking is that people will come to high-end places and spend big money, not necessarily at gambling, but at shops and restaurants and shows, you know, like in the real resort towns.

[ 99.] 1999: Dice games are legalized in the province of Ontario. It is the first time that dice games are played (legally) in Canada since they were outlawed by Queen Victoria.

[ 100.] 1999: The National Gambling Impact Study is released. It recommends that the spread of casino gambling be stopped and that a moratorium on all new casino initiatives be put into effect immediately. It also recommends that college sports betting be outlawed in every state including Nevada. The only "pro-player" recommendations made by this antigambling committee are that casinos should post the true odds that the players face in each and every game and on each and every machine. The century opened with the anti-booze and antigambling forces storming the gates, it closes with the antigambling forces pushing for some form of prohibition again. I'll wager it doesn't take.


I'd like to thank the following individuals, both living and deceased, and cite the following sources for their help in compiling "The 100 Most Significant Events in Casino Gambling for the 20th Century" list.

A. Alvarez (author of The Biggest Game in Town); Russell T. Barnhart (author of Beating the Wheel); Bootlegger (gaming columnist for www.scoblete.com, The New Chance and Circumstance); John Brokopp (gaming columnist for Daily Southtown and www.scoblete.com, author of Thrifty Gambling and Insider's Guide to Internet Gambling); Bill Burton (host of About.com); Don Catlin (gaming columnist for The New Chance and Circumstance magazine and www.scoblete.com); Marshall Fey (author of Slot Machines: A Pictorial History of The First 100 Years); Adam Fine (managing editor of Casino Player and Strictly Slots magazines); The Gamblers Book Club; The Golden Nugget website; John Grochowski (gaming columnist for www.scoblete.com, Midwest Gaming and Travel, The New Chance and Circumstance magazines, author of The Casino Answer Book and The Slot Machine Answer Book); Russell Guindon (Nevada Gaming Control Board); Daniel Heneghan (New Jersey Casino Control Commission); Anthony Holden (author of Big Deal); Indian Gaming Website; Michael Konik (author of The Man with the $100,000 Breasts); Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990; Las Vegas Review Journal; The Las Vegas Sun; Patricia Marvel (public relations director of Shuffle Master Gaming); John May (gaming columnist for www.scoblete.com and The New Chance and Circumstance magazine, author of Baccarat for the Clueless and Get the Edge at Blackjack); The National Gaming Impact Study (Preliminary Report); Eddie Olsen (editor of Blackjack Confidential Magazine); Alene Paone (gaming columnist for www.scoblete.com and publisher of The New Chance and Circumstance magazine); Christopher Pawlicki (gaming columnist for The New Chance and Circumstance magazine and www.scoblete.com and author of Get the Edge at Roulette); John Robison (gaming columnist for Midwest Gaming and Travel and Double Down magazines, contributor to Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider magazines, managing editor of www.frankscoblete.com and The New Chance and Circumstance, and author of Inside Atlantic City Slot Clubs and The SLot Expert's Guide to Playing Slot Machines); Jack Sheehan, (editor of The Players: The Men Who Made Las Vegas); Carl Sifakas (author of The Encyclopedia of Gambling); Arnold Snyder (editor of Blackjack Forum magazine, author of Blackbelt in Blackjack, and Blackjack Wisdom, gaming columnist for Casino Player, Card Player magazines and www.scoblete.com); Rick Sorensen, (public relations director of International Game Technology, IGT); Henry Tamburin (author of six books and three videos on casino gambling, gaming columnist for Casino Player, Chance, Jackpot!, The New Chance and Circumstance magazines and www.scoblete.com); Walter Thomason (gaming columnist for Midwest Gaming and Travel and The New Chance and Circumstance magazines and www.scoblete.com, author of The Experts' Guide to Casino Games, Blackjack for the Clueless, and 21st Century Blackjack); William N. Thompson (author of Legalized Gambling: A Reference Handbook); Ken Uston (author of Million Dollar Blackjack); Barney Vinson (gaming columnist for Double Down and The New Chance and Circumstance magazines and www.scoblete.com, author of Las Vegas Behind the Tables I and II, Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas and Casino Secrets).

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Best of Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

The Captain's Special Report

> More Books By Frank Scoblete