Lefty Rosenthal's Hidden Las Vegas Agenda?

"Nevada owes a debt of gratitude to Frank Schreck," a Las Vegas Sun editorial recently noted.

Schreck was named this year's International Association of Gaming Advisors honoree and in recognition gave quite a speech. It included a head-turning revelation about a major Mafia figure notorious for his stint working in the Stardust hotel and casino (among other places), which once occupied a prime slot on the fabled Las Vegas strip.

Geri and Lefty Rosenthal
Geri, on Lefty's left, looks like Sharon Stone.

Schreck, considered a premier gaming attorney in Nevada and elsewhere, recounted his personal take on Las Vegas history, including the enduring legacy of oddball billionaire Howard Hughes.

Schreck's rise commenced in 1971 when then-governor Mike O’Callaghan’s appointed the then-27-year-old lawyer to the Nevada Gaming Commission, setting a record. Schreck remains the youngest commissioner ever appointed to that regulatory body, which was charged with policing whether someone could purchase a gaming license and join Nevada’s bedrock industry.

The operative word is "someone." Schreck was there when Hughes came into town and bought most of it via his corporations, a no-no at the time. The town, however, eyeing Hugh's billions when the word "billionaire" was not commonly part of the lexicon, sought to make some serious changes to permit the aviator, filmmaker, engineer, loner, etc., to sink fortunes into the strip.

The Sun article described Schreck as instrumental in terms of his "leadership in writing the rules and regulations that allowed public companies, banks and Wall Street investment firms to become owners of Nevada’s regulated casinos."

"Before Hughes moved to Las Vegas, each gaming hotel and casino was licensed to individuals only. Corporations were not allowed and, of course, in those days Wall Street and the insurance companies wanted no part of “gambling."

"All this was happening toward the end of the 1960s, when Las Vegas was in a slump and its potentially rosy and exciting future was, well, questionable. That is when Hughes, a recent Nevada transplant, decided he wanted in the gambling business and swept up six casino-hotels in practically the blink of an eye.

"That brought two challenges to the fore: how to license Hughes, who refused to go out in public, and how to license corporations (which Hughes used to hold his assets), which violated the Nevada mindset of holding individuals accountable and not the legal fiction of a corporation for their conduct in the industry.

"That’s about when Frank was appointed to the commission and handed the job of writing the rules that govern — to this day — the entrance of public companies, Wall Street and every other form of financial involvement into Nevada’s primary industry. It is those rules that have proved invaluable in the growth of gaming in Nevada over the past 40 years. ..."

"Hughes made it safe for the big boys to look at and consider investing in Las Vegas. If Las Vegas was good enough for the richest man in the country, they figured it was good enough for them. It was as simple as that!"

Then, according to the editorial, Schreck in last week's speech swerved into another topic of historical interest, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal who died on Oct. 13, 2008.

As noted: "The Chicago Outfit put Rosenthal in. They used the nickname "Crazy" when they spoke of him," noted Jane Ann Morrison in the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2008. Interestingly, while she knew both Rosenthal and Spilotro, she actually found "the fastidious" Rosenthal scarier than Tony "The Ant":

The few times Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and I spoke, he looked at me as if I were a worm he'd like to step on, except the ensuing goo would dirty the sole of his shoe. Actually, I found the fastidious Rosenthal scarier than mobster Anthony Spilotro, and no one accused Rosenthal of killing dozens of people.

Now I've been on the receiving end of plenty of cold stares, but Rosenthal really gave it his all and his cold stare did a number on me when I was a federal court reporter between 1978 and 1984. Our first face-to-face encounter was during that period when he was unofficially running the Stardust...

He had various titles, from food and beverage director to entertainment director, but it was no secret he was concerned with more than how many blueberries were in a blueberry muffin and how tall the show girls were."
A court reporter said she actually found Lefty scarier than Tony "The Ant" Spilotro.

As Lefty's website notes (conveniently overlooking that he was put in Nevada on behalf of the Outfit, which had assumed control of the gambling mecca after the New York Mafia fumbled it... Remember that list found in Frank Costello's pocket after he was shot in the head?)...

Anyway the official Lefty website says:

For much of his professional life, the Chicago-born and casino-bred, Rosenthal has been the country's top handicapper. He was one of a handful of men who literally set the line for thousands of bookmakers from coast to coast.

During the 1970's, and early eighties, Rosenthal ran four Las Vegas casinos simultaneously, including the world famous Stardust Hotel and Casino. Rosenthal is also credited with creating the first Race & Sportsbook (Parlor) in Las Vegas. Despite resistance from the traditional casino bosses, who believed exclusively in terms of table games and slots, Rosenthal had spent decades in and around the sports world to know that it could be the motherlode of casino betting. He created a space-age theater-like Race and Sportsbook at the Stardust Hotel & Casino that was copied by every casino on the strip. 

Now back to Shreck's speech, in which he provided the answer to an apparently longtime question that had risen to something akin to folklore status.

Specifically, why did Las Vegas gaming authorities wait so long to call Rosenthal "forward for licensing when everyone knew he was running the Stardust Hotel for his Chicago-based owners (I think you get the picture). If not, try to remember the 1995 film “Casino” with Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone. De Niro played the Lefty character."

Schreck, it seems, finally solved this puzzle:

"... It was common for the gaming authorities not to call some casino people forward, but we all knew why. Their pasts couldn’t stand up to modern-day scrutiny, but their present-day activities were exemplary. Hence, they got passes.

"But Lefty? No one could understand why gaming authorities refused to act. Neither could Frank, who tried to bring Rosenthal forward but found only deaf ears attached to responsible and honest men.

"Finally, according to Schreck, as he was leaving the commission to enter private practice, he got his wish. The commission would call Lefty Rosenthal forward for suitability — the drama that was played out near the end of “Casino.”

Then, shortly thereafter, as noted in his speech, Schreck learned what the hold up had been.  "It was an answer some of us believed was the case but couldn’t prove," the editorial writer added.

Lefty Rosenthal was a government informant, Schreck reveled, "confirming" what industry insiders long believed.