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The 100 Most Significant Events of the 20th Century in Casino Gambling10 February 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.
[ 41.] 1966: Riverside Casino opens in Laughlin, Nevada, on the Colorado River. Laughlin will ultimately become the fourth casino destination in Nevada, behind Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe. Laughlin will cater to the low rollers who are legion by the 20th Century's end.
[ 42.] 1967: Inventor and billionaire, Howard Hughes goes on a Las Vegas buying spree. In a short period of time, he buys seven Las Vegas properties. Why? Mr. Hughes "retires" to the penthouse on the 15th floor of the Desert Inn in 1966 where he refuses to be budged by management. When management makes it quite clear that they want the reclusive Mr. Hughes to hit the road, Howard makes them an offer they can't refuse -- he buys the hotel for $14,000,000 which is twice what it is worth at the time. From that day on, he lives like a hermit in a fastidiously clean luxury cave at the top of the Desert Inn in the midst of the most dynamic and action-packed city in the world. Unfortunately, lucky in business but unlucky in the casino business, Howard Hughes' management team has very little familiarity with the day-to-day workings of a casino and his Desert Inn does not do the business it should. Nor does the Sands, another Hughes investment. However, Las Vegas' city fathers (and mothers) welcome Hughes with open arms as he represents a wonderful change from the mob-controlled casinos. In fact, Hughes arrival is considered a major turning point in Vegas history. Once he enters the picture, other large corporations will begin to look at Nevada as a legitimate area for investment. The only folks not overjoyed with Hughes' arrival are the managers of the Teamsters Pension Funds who have a lock on Las Vegas casino investments until Hughes comes along.
[ 43.] 1967-1968: In 1967, Bally introduces the first five-coin multiplier machines and a year later the company introduces the first three-line machine. These become the standard for slots from this point on.
[ 44.] 1969: Lawrence Revere publishes Playing Blackjack as a Business. Revere's book offers an easy-to-learn and easy-to-use, simplified card-counting system. Revere is responsible for ushering in the age of "simple" counts, accessible to the average, though disciplined, player. This book creates a blackjack playing and publishing boom that continues to this day. Although some current authorities quibble with Revere's estimate of a player's edge over the casinos, most agree that Revere is to Thorp what St. Paul is to Jesus -- the herald that brings Thorp's message, in simplified form, to the masses! Revere himself is something of a legend in Las Vegas circles. His other name is Spec Parsons. Now, that is a great name for a Las Vegas gambler!
[ 45.] 1969: Peter Griffin publishes Theory of Blackjack. Unlike any previous book on the subject, Griffin thoroughly explores the math behind the game of blackjack but in a way many non-mathematicians could at least attempt to understand. Griffin is an accomplished blackjack theorist, perhaps the best theorist ever, but he is also an accomplished writer and a great player who could keep track of every single card in the deck. This book is still in print in its 9th edition.
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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