Frank Lawrence “Lefty” Rosenthal (1929 – 2008) was a bookmaker and Las Vegas casino executive with strong ties to organized crime. He revolutionized the bookmaking business in Las Vegas and was among the first to hire female blackjack dealers, but he was also renowned for game fixing, past-posting, casino skimming and other seedy activities. The Martin Scorcese movie “Casino” is largely based on the life of Frank Rosenthal.
Growing up in West Side, Chicago
Frank Rosenthal grew up in Chicago’s West Side during the Great Depression. He loved the Wringley Field (home of the Chicago cubs) and would often play truant to attend baseball games. This is where he first came into contact with sports betting and bookmaking. One of Rosenthal’s boyhood friends was the young Anthony “Tony” John Spilotro, who would grow up to be a much feared enforcer for the mob.
As a young adult, Rosenthal worked for an Italian-American crime syndicate in Chicago known simply as “the Chicago Outfit”. His focus was bookmaking, and he was soon running the country’s largest illegal bookmaking operation (on behalf of the Chicago Outfit). Part of his job was to use money from the mob-run front business Cicero Home Improvement to pay the bribes required for fixing important sports events.
The Florida years
After being indicted as co-conspirator on multiple sports bribery charges in Illinois, Frank Rosenthal packed his bags and moved to Florida, where he settled in North Bay Village in Miami. His ties with the Chicago Outfit were as strong as ever, and he continued to run their bookmaking business from Miami. He was suspected of several bomb attacks against Nevada business establishments, but this was never proved.
In the early 1960’s, Rosenthal’s match fixing and boomaking had attracted enough attention in Florida for him to be subpoenaed to appear before U.S. Senator John McClellan’s subcommittee on Gambling and Organized Crime. Rosenthal refused to cooperate and was never formally charged – at least not at this point. Later on, he was arrested several times for bookmaking and other gambling law transgressions. Only one arrest resulted in a conviction – in 1963 Rosenthal pleaded no contest to bribing a New York University player to shave points for a college basketball game in North Carolina.
The Nevada years (1968 – 1983)
Even though he was only convicted once, Frank Rosenthal was under constant scrutiny from legal authorities in Florida and the FBI had their own 300-page file on him. In the late 1960s, Rosenthal left Florida and settled down in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In Las Vegas, Rosenthal was the non-official manager of four casinos controlled by the Chicago outfit: Stardust, Hacienda, Marina and Fremont. He was involved in all aspects of the business and was for instance instrumental in Stardust’s decision to start hiring female blackjack dealers. This was an era when blackjack dealing was considered a male-only profession in Las Vegas, but Rosenthal’s equal opportunity policy turned out to be a great success among the gamblers and Stardust Casino rapidly doubled its revenue.
Naturally, Rosenthal also took a great interest in bookmaking in Las Vegas. He established a bookmaking operation within the Stardust Casino and turned it into a highly profitable venture.
In 1982, Rosenthal survived an association attempt. A card bomb attached to the gasoline tank of his car exploded under him, but a lot of the shock blast was absorbed by a metal plate that General Motors had installed in the 1981 Cadillac Eldorado to help with a balancing problem. Even though there were plenty of people who had reason to wish Rosenthal dead, no perpetrator was ever convicted.
The California years
Pretty soon after the assassination attempt, Fran Rosenthal left Nevada for California, and settled in the affluent Laguna Niguel community in Orange County.
Back to Florida
Towards the end of his life, Frank Rosenthal moved back to Florida, but not to North Bay Village. Instead, he started out in Boca Raton before eventually ending up in Miami Beach. In Florida, Rosenthal focused on sports betting online. He ran his own sports betting site and radio show, and also worked as a consultant for several offshore betting companies.
At the age of 79 years, Rosenthal died in Miami Beach on October 13, 2008. There were no indications of foul play.