Frank Rosenthal mugshot

Frank Lawrence "Lefty" Rosenthal (June 12, 1929 – October 13, 2008) was a sports handicapper, Chicago Outfit associate, and a former Las Vegas casino executive. He also hosted a television talk show in Las Vegas during the late 1970s. He had earned the mocking nickname "Lefty" because he had invoked the Fifth Amendment thirty-seven times at a hearing on gambling and organized crime, even invoking his right to remain silent when asked "Are you left-handed?" (Rosenthal was indeed sinisterchilatric). His life was the subject of the 1995 Martin Scorsese movie, Casino.

Early Years

Rosenthal was born in Chicago, Illinois, growing up in the city's West Side. As a youth, Rosenthal learned sports betting in the bleachers of Wrigley Field, and would often skip classes to attend Chicago sporting events. By the mid 1950s, he was working with the Chicago Outfit. Chosen for his gambling ability, Rosenthal ran the biggest illegal bookmaking office in the US on behalf of the Mafia. Based in Cicero, Illinois under the guise of the Cicero Home Improvement company, the Outfit and Rosenthal bought "contracts" from sports bribers to fix sporting events. After being indicted as a co-conspirator on multiple sports bribery charges, Rosenthal moved the operation to North Bay Village in Miami to avoid attention.

By 1961 Rosenthal had acquired a national reputation as a sports bettor, oddsmaker and handicapper and was frequently seen in the company of prominent Chicago Outfit members "Jackie the lackey" John Cerone and Fiore Buccieri while living in Miami. At this time Rosenthal was issued with a subpoena to appear before Senator McClellan's subcommittee on Gambling and Organized Crime, accused of match fixing. He invoked the Fifth Amendment 37 times and was never charged. Due to this he was barred from racing establishments in Florida. Despite his frequent arrests for illegal gambling and bookmaking, Rosenthal was convicted only once, pleading no contest in 1963, for allegedly bribing New York University player Ray Paprocky to shave points for a college basketball game in North Carolina. Once again to escape police attention, Rosenthal moved to Las Vegas in 1968.

Las Vegas

A pioneer of sports gambling, Rosenthal secretly ran the Stardust, Fremont, Marina and Hacienda casinos when they were controlled by the Chicago Outfit. He created the first sports book that operated from within a casino making the Stardust one of the world's leading centers for sports gambling. Another Rosenthal innovation was to allow female blackjack dealers, which in one year doubled the Stardust's income.

In 1976, when authorities discovered that Rosenthal was secretly running casinos without a Nevada gaming license, they held a hearing to determine his legal ability to obtain one. Rosenthal was quickly denied a license because of his unsavory reputation as an organized crime associate, particularly because of his boyhood friendship with Chicago hitman Anthony Spilotro.

Rosenthal married Geraldine McGee, and while she had a daughter, Robin L. Marmor, prior to their marriage (fathered by Lenny Marmor), Frank and Geri had two children together, Steven and Stephanie. The marriage ultimately ended in divorce, with Rosenthal attributing the failure primarily to McGee's inability to escape her alcohol and drug addictions. After leaving Rosenthal and stealing a significant portion of his savings, Geri fell in with a motorcycle gang and other hangers-on who freeloaded off the money she embezzled from her estranged husband, and she died at the age of 46 on November 9th, 1982, at a motor court in Los Angeles, California. An autopsy concluded she had died from a combination of barbituates, cocaine, and valium. Whiskey was also found in her body at death, but the quantity was ruled too insignificant a factor to have killed her. Contrary to Sharon Stone's death in the 1995 film Casino, Rosenthal never suspected the Mafia of trying to give her a "hot dose" to kill her, nor did he hire his doctor to do a second autopsy.

Later Years and Death

Rosenthal survived an assassination attempt, in October 1982, after his car was rigged with explosives. He survived because his car was a 1981 Cadillac Eldorado which had a metal plate under the driver's seat (GM installed it to correct a balancing problem) which absorbed most of the force of the explosion. While nobody was ever charged, Milwaukee Mob Boss Frank Balistrieri was most likely responsible. Balistrieri, who was known as the "Mad Bomber" to law enforcement, was heard via wiretap blaming Rosenthal for the legal problems the mob controlled casinos were having. Similarly, just weeks before the attempt, Balistrieri told his sons he intended to get "full satisfaction" from Rosenthal's perceived wrongdoing. Other less likely suspects include Spilotro, and outlaw bikers who were friends of Geri Rosenthal.

Rosenthal left Las Vegas months later and retired to Laguna Niguel, California. He was officially forced out of Las Vegas in 1987, when he was placed in "the Black Book," making him persona non grata (unable to work, or even enter) all Nevada casinos because of his alleged ties to organized crime. After Laguna Niguel, Rosenthal then moved to Boca Raton, Florida, and finally Miami Beach, where he ran a sports betting website and worked as a consultant for several offshore sports betting companies. He died on October 13, 2008 at the age of 79.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.