Sports Gambling Hall of Fame to Induct Mob Associate Lefty Rosenthal

Posted on: August 11, 2023, 02:13h. 

Last updated on: August 11, 2023, 07:00h.

One of the first honorees celebrated by the new Sports Gambling Hall of Fame wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony if he were still alive.

The organization’s first induction ceremony happens tonight, Friday, Aug. 11, at downtown Las Vegas’ Circa Resort and Casino. However, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal was banned for life from entering any Nevada casino in 1987.

Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal — on whom Robert De Niro’s character in the 1995 movie Casino was based — was a mob associate who engaged in multiple illegal gambling operations. This photo shows him testifying in front of a 1961 Senate Investigations Subcommittee about match-fixing. (Image: Associated Press)

Rosenthal was listed in Nevada’s so-called “Black Book,” created in 1967 after the Nevada Legislature deemed it necessary to ban certain people from ever entering any licensed Nevada casinos. Rosenthal — represented by his lawyer, future Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman — challenged his ban in 1990 and won. But the Nevada Supreme Court overturned that ruling in 1991 and reinstated the ban.

Rosenthal died of a heart attack in October 2008 in Miami, where he operated a sports betting website.

Why He’s Being Inducted

Rosenthal introduced the first race and sportsbook to operate inside a Las Vegas Strip casino — though fellow inductee Jackie Gaughan beat him to Las Vegas by opening one downtown a year earlier.

When the Sports Gambling Hall of Fame’s Twitter site announced Rosenthal’s induction in May, it did so by making the following arguments:

1. “When Frank bets, the betting establishment salutes.” — Sports Illustrated
2. Known for blending charisma with customer service to casino patron
3. Portrayed by Robert De Niro in the movie Casino.

Why Maybe He Shouldn’t Be Inducted

Rosenthal ran the Stardust from 1974 to 1978 — as well as the Fremont, Marina, and Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas — without possessing a gaming license. That’s because its secret owner was the Chicago branch of the mafia. Mobsters installed Rosenthal because he was also in charge of the illegal skim operation that netted the mob at least $1.6 million — and probably many times more.

In the ’50s, Rosenthal purchased contracts to fix sporting events, earning multiple sports-bribery indictments. In 1963, he pleaded no contest to bribing a New York University basketball player to shave points. And he was a suspect in multiple business and car bombings in Miami in the ’60s, which is allegedly why he fled to Las Vegas in 1968 in the first place.

“‘Lefty’ Rosenthal? Wasn’t he a (whispers … mafia guy)?” tweeted @clambeaufo when the Sports Gambling Hall of Fame announced its honorees.

“What, no Arnold Rothstein?” added @TimSullivan714, referring to the organized-crime boss reputed to have conspired to fix the 1919 World Series.

The Other Nine

The other nine inductees are listed below. It’s worth noting that three of them have served prison time, which Rosenthal never had to — though that may simply be because, as revealed by Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Jane Ann Morrison shortly after Rosenthal’s death, he had been an FBI informant for at least several decades.

It is also worth noting that inductees Billy Baxter and Roxy Roxborough both sit on the Sports Gambling Hall of Fame’s 16-person voting committee.

Billy Baxter at the 2006 World Series of Poker. (Image: Wikipedia)

Billy Baxter

William E. “Billy” Baxter, Jr. is an American poker pro and sports bettor who holds seven World Series of Poker bracelets and a spot in the Poker Hall of Fame. He is best known for staking Stu Ungar’s $10K buy-in for the 1997 WSOP main event, which Ungar won for a record-tying third time. In the ’70s, Baxter owned a Georgia casino called the Paisley Club, some of whose table games were illegal. After he agreed to shut it down, he reopened it just for a weekend. That earned him a little over nine months in prison for felony bookmaking.

Jack Franzi

An influential oddsmaker from 1979 to 1997 at the Barbary Coast and Gold Coast, Franzi — who died in 2019 at 91 — served as frequent advisor to TV analyst Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder.

Jackie Gaughan

Best known for owning the El Cortez — where he resided until death in 2014 — he mentored Steve Wynn when he took over the Golden Nugget in 1973. In 1975, Gaughan opened the first race and sportsbook to operate inside a casino — at the Union Plaza.

Jackie Gaughan. (Image:

Bob Martin

America’s preeminent oddsmaker from the ’60s through the ’80s, Martin – who died in 2001 at 81 — managed the Churchill Downs Sports Book and the Union Plaza sportsbook, posting rock-solid lines on sporting events followed by bookies across the country. In 1983, Martin was convicted and served 13 months in federal prison on interstate betting charges.

Charles McNeil

This longtime Vegas oddsmaker, who died in 1981 at age 77, was
credited with popularizing the point spread. He was also mobster Frank Costello’s personal bookie. In reporter Dan Moldea’s 1989 book, “Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football,” oddsmaker Ed Curd called McNeil “the best handicapper who ever lived.”

Roxy Roxborough. (Image:

Roxy Roxborough

Michael “Roxy” Roxborough was America’s foremost oddsmaker from 1982 to 1999, when he ran Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the international odds-making company he founded. He also co-founded American Wagering Inc., the first US bookmaking company to be listed on a public stock exchange.

Scott Schettler

A longtime oddsmaker who wrote a book about the various characters he knew while running the Stardust’s sportsbook, 2010’s “We Were Wise Guys and Didn’t Know It,” Schettler was unique for for taking action from any and all. He founded a lottery at the casino that gave everyone a fair shot to bet on opening lines.

Jimmy Vaccaro

Known as the only bookmaker to take action on the biggest upset in the history of boxing — Mike Tyson’s 1990 loss to Buster Douglas — Vaccara has been among Vegas’ most prominent bookmakers for more than 40 years. He opened the Barbary Coast sportsbook for owner Michael Gaughan in 1979. In the ’80s, Vaccaro ran the MGM and Golden Nugget sportsbooks and helped Steve Wynn open The Mirage sportsbook in 1989. Since 2013, he’s been reunited with Gaughan at the South Point.

Billy Walters. (Image:

Billy Walters

One of the most successful sports bettors of all time, Walters enjoyed a winning streak that spanned 30 years. In the ’80s, he joined the Computer Group, which employed computer analysis to help determine the most likely sports game outcomes. In April 2017, Walters was found guilty of insider trading, fined $10 million and sent to prison. His served three years of his five-year sentence before being transferred to home confinement due to COVID-19 and having the rest of his sentence commuted by President Donald Trump in 2021.