Casino is a classic gangster flick about murder, money, power, and greed. The plot of the movie is inspired by the real-life events of the infamous Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, who managed the Fremont Stardust and Hacienda casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago mob. But how much of Casino was based on a true story?

We know how the movie industry works with supposed “true, based on real-life” stories. Everything is enhanced to give more of a dramatic effect on the big screen to the moviegoers. Just like in online casinos, things have to be flashy to grab your attention! This type of approach makes sense since the success of a cinematic piece depends on how much dramatic flair is added to keep the viewer engaged in the story. Let’s take a look at the real faces that inspired the story.

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Who is Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal?

Frank Lawrence Rosenthal, also known as “Lefty” Rosenthal, was an American sports bettor, organized crime associate, and former Las Vegas casino executive. He was once awarded the title “the greatest living expert on sports gambling” by Sports Illustrated. The history of Las Vegas is no stranger to colourful individuals, one of the most intriguing one being Lefty himself. Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal rose to fame in the public eye thanks to the 1995 movie Casino.

In his early years, Frank had a knack for sporting events and casino games. When his expert odds-making ability was discovered, he started working for the Chicago Outfit and he ran the biggest illegal bookmaking office in the United States on behalf of the Mafia. After being accused as a conspirator on numerous sports bribery charges, Rosenthal moved his operations to North Bay Village in Miami, Florida to avoid detection.

Everyone knows about the famous assassination attempt in Casino. But did you know that Frank actually did survive an assassination attempt in real life? In 1982, while Rosenthal was dining at a restaurant, an unknown person or persons placed a bomb under his car. The bomb exploded as Rosenthal started his car. Thanks to a metal plate placed under the driver seat to correct the balance issues with his particular model of car (a 1981 Cadillac Eldorado), the force of the explosion was lessened, saving Rosenthal’s life.

Who are the Characters in Casino Based on?

Every character in Casino is based on real-life individuals. Let’s take a look at the most well-known names in the movie and their real-life counterparts.

Nicholas “Nicky” Santoro

Nicholas “Nicky” Santoro is based on Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro. In the golden years of the 1970s and 1980s, he was an American mobster and member of the Chicago Outfit in Las Vegas. He managed the skims, or illegal casino profits. Spilotro formed and led the Hole in the Wall Gang when he moved to Las Vegas in 1971. He later fell victim to an arranged murder when his organized crime overseers disapproved of his behaviour in Vegas. Though the character based on Anthony Spilotro (Nicky Santoro) is placed in the Black Book in the movie, according to the trivia page, it is Rosenthal who was placed in the Black Book and run out of Las Vegas.

Sam “Ace” Rothstein

Sam “Ace” Rothstein is based on Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the Chicago mobster and the protagonist of the movie. As a big promoter for sports gambling, Rosenthal secretly ran various casinos in Las Vegas, created the first sportsbook operated from a casino, and even hired more female blackjack dealers, like the ones we see in modern blackjack online. To the surprise of everyone, this decision led to the doubling of the income of the Stardust Casino.

Ginger McKenna

Ginger McKenna is based on Geraldine “Geri” McGee, Rosenthal’s wife, a former model, and a Las Vegas showgirl. She worked her way up the Las Vegas social ladder from being a waitress to a showgirl and then eventually married Rosenthal. As rumors suggest, McGee had an affair with Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro. After a complicated divorce, McGee was found heavily drugged, leading to her death. McGee’s sister suggested her death was an arranged murder, led by the mob because perhaps McGee knew too much about the Las Vegas underworld.

Phillip Green

Philip Green is based on the real-life mobster and casino tycoon, Allen Glick. He is the former owner and the chief executive of the Nevada gaming company Argent Corporation. Glick and his company were an alleged front for mobsters in Chicago, Illinois, Kansas City, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and Missouri during the 1970s.

Maddison Dwyer

Senior Writer & Queen of Cards

Maddison, a graduate from the University of Queensland with a degree in journalism, has turned her sharp analytical skills towards the casino world. Specializing in blackjack and roulette and more, she guides enthusiasts through the complexities of gambling strategies.

Her background in ethical storytelling enriches her approach, making her insights into casino gaming both trustworthy and engaging.

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