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July 30, 2014

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Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal dies at age 79

Sun History project

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Casino Executive Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal smiles for this portrait. Rosenthal secretly ran the Stardust hotel for the Chicago mafia and was famous for being the first to put a sports book inside of a casino. The movie "Casino" is based on the events surrounding Rosenthal's presence in Las Vegas.

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Investigators examine the area surrounding the twisted remnants of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal's car after a bomb destroyed the vehicle on Oct. 4, 1982. A metal plate directly underneath the driver's seat of the Cadillac diverted the explosion away from Rosenthal, saving his life.

Former Las Vegas casino executive and mob-connected sports handicapper Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal has died at his Florida home at age 79.

Rosenthal had been living in Miami Beach and died of a heart attack Monday. No funeral services have been scheduled.

A sports gambling pioneer, Rosenthal at one time ran the Stardust, Fremont and Hacienda hotel-casinos secretly.

In 1976 when Nevada authorities discovered that Rosenthal was running casinos without a state license needed to do so, the Nevada Gaming Control Commission held a hearing to determine Rosenthal's legal ability to obtain a gaming license.

The board decided to deny Rosenthal a license as a casino employee.

Later Rosenthal appealed the state's decision to Judge Joseph Pavlikowski and succeeded.

Ultimately, the judge's ruling was trumped by the state when Nevada placed him in the notorious Black Book, which banned him from being in or near any casino in Nevada in 1988.

In 1982 Rosenthal survived a car bombing of his 1981 Cadillac Eldorado outside of Tony Roma's restaurant, 620 E. Sahara Ave.

Rosenthal was taken to a local hospital with minor burns on both legs, his left arm and on the left side of his face.

Police at the scene of the car bombing said Rosenthal refused to sign a crime report or discuss the matter with investigators.

Born June 12, 1929, in Chicago, Rosenthal developed a close friendship with Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro. Spilotro and his brother Michael died after a beating by mob members in a Bensenville, Ill., house and were then buried alive in a cornfield. They asphixiated when blood blocked their airways.

In the 1995 Martin Scorsese film, "Casino," Rosenthal, renamed "Sam 'Ace' Rothstein," was played by Robert De Niro and his mob associate Spilotro, renamed "Nicky Santoro," was played by Joe Pesci.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. An earlier version gave the wrong location of Rosenthal’s bombed car and how and where the Spilotro brothers were killed.

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