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Casino: History vs. Hollywood

Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods | based on the book "Casino" by Nicholas Pileggi

Robert De Niro
Born: August 17, 1943
New York City, New York, USA
Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal
Born: June 12, 1929
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Death: October 13, 2008, Miami Beach (heart attack)
Joe Pesci
Born: February 9, 1943
Newark, New Jersey, USA
Anthony 'The Ant' Spilotro
Born: May 19, 1938
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Death: June 14, 1986, Bensenville, Illinois (beaten to death)
Sharon Stone
Born: March 10, 1958
Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA
Geraldine McGee Rosenthal
Born: May 16, 1936
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
Death: November 9, 1982, Los Angeles (drug overdose)
Frank Vincent
Born: April 15, 1937
North Adams, Massachusetts, USA
Death: September 13, 2017, New Jersey, USA (heart attack)
Frank Cullotta
Born: December 14, 1938
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Rubber mallets are less likely to leave a mark. -Frank Rosenthal (Avery Cardoza's Player Magazine, 2006)

Questioning the Story:

Did Sam Rothstein manage any other casinos besides Tangiers?

Unlike the portrayal in the movie Casino where Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) runs only one casino, the Tangiers, in real life Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal ran four casinos simultaneously, including the Stardust, Hacienda, Fremont and Marina for the Chicago mafia. For legal reasons, the Stardust was renamed the Tangiers in the film. -Las Vegas Sun

Rosenthal ran The Stardust Casino, shown here during the 1970's.

Did teamsters really fund the Tangiers?

Yes. After being pressured by the mob, the Teamsters fund loaned the Argent Corporation, solely owned by Allen Glick, the money to buy the Stardust and other casinos. Mr. Glick was portrayed in the movie Casino by character Philip Green (Kevin Pollak). -Online Nevada Encyclopedia

Did security really crush the hands of a cheater?

According to Frank Rosenthal himself, yes, this did occur but not under the circumstances portrayed in the movie Casino. The two men who were electronically signaling each other were part of a larger group that had been scamming all the casinos for an extended period of time. The actions taken were meant as a message to the group to deter any of the others from coming back to do the same. -Miami Herald

Did Sam and Ginger have a daughter like in the movie?

The Casino movie true story reveals that Sam and Ginger Rothstein's real-life counterparts, Frank and Geraldine Rosenthal, had a daughter named Stephanie and a son name Steven. Geraldine also had a daughter from a previous relationship with her high school love, Lenny Marmor (James Woods' character in the movie). Robin Marmor was born on December 27, 1957, and was eleven years old when her mother met Frank. She was not depicted in the movie. To learn more about Frank Rosenthal's wife and family, read Nicholas Pileggi's book Casino, which was the basis for the Martin Scorsese movie.

It's back! Nicholas Pileggi's true-to-life crime story that was the basis for the Martin Scorsese movie Casino returned to print in 2011.

Were the lion performers Sam hired to work at the Tangiers based on Siegfried and Roy?

Indeed they were. When Siegfried and Roy's contract was about to expire with a competing casino, Mr. Rosenthal (Sam) hired them to perform at the Stardust. Part of the agreement was a significantly higher salary, custom dressing room and space for their animals. "Lido de Paris Starring Siegfried and Roy" was born and so was a friendship that lasted a lifetime.

Rosenthal is shown here dining with tiger performer Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy.

Did Nicky really get banned from every casino in Vegas?

Yes. In December 1979, Tony Spilotro, the real-life Nicky Santoro, was blacklisted by the Nevada Gaming Commission, preventing him from entering any casino.

Did the real Nicky Santoro have a son?

Yes. In 1966, Tony and Nancy Spilotro (the real Nicky and Jennifer Santoro) adopted their only son, Vincent. -The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob

Did Nicky really recruit his brother and other guys from back home to commit heists?

Yes. The pack was referred to as "The Hole in the Wall Gang" because they cut holes in walls and ceilings to enter their target locations. Included in this group were his brother, Michael Spilotro, Herbert "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein, Wayne Metecki, Samuel Cusumano, Joseph Cusumano, Ernesto "Ernie" Davino, "Crazy Larry" Neumann, Salvatore "Sonny" Romano, Leonardo "Leo" Guardino, Joseph Blasko and their leader, Frank Cullotta. Frank Cullotta is portrayed in the movie Casino by actor Frank Vincent, as Nicky Santoro's sidekick Frankie Marino.

Tony Spilotro (left) and his onscreen counterpart in the movie (right), portrayed by Joe Pesci.

Did they really put a rival's head in a vise after he shot up a bar?

Yes. Anthony Spilotro, the basis for Joe Pesci's Nicky Santoro character, caught one of the two men who killed the Scalvo brothers without permission. Frank Cullotta testified in the Operation Family Secrets trial that Spilotro did torture Billy McCarthy. Spilotro told him that McCarthy was beaten and when he refused to name his accomplice, his head was put in a vise and tightened until his eyeball popped out. At that point, he gave them Jimmy Miraglia's name and they slit his throat. -Sun Times

Did Nicky Santoro sleep with Sam Rothstein's wife?

Yes, the real Nicky Santoro, Tony Spilotro, did sleep with Frank Rosenthal's wife, which ultimately played a part in his demise. Nicholas Calabrese testified in the Operation Family Secrets trial in 2007 that mob hit man John Fecarotta told him that Spilotro was targeted for his affair with Rosenthal's wife. -Chicago Tribune

Frank Rosenthal's wife, Geri Rosenthal (left), and Sharon Stone (right) in the Casino movie.

Was Phillip Green's business partner, Anna Scott, murdered in her home?

Yes. The real-life Anna Scott, Tamara Rand, was murdered in the kitchen of her San Diego home. She was shot on November 9, 1975 soon after having loan issues with her mob-tied business partner, Allen Glick. -San Diego Reader

Was there really a Gaming Control Board investigation into Sam's attempt to get a gaming license?

Yes. The real Sam, Frank Rosenthal, did have a hearing with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Furthermore, he argued with the chairman, the current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and was denied a gaming license. In 1988, he was officially put in the "Black Book" (List of Persons Excluded from Licensed Gaming Establishments in the State of Nevada). -Las Vegas Sun

Frank Rosenthal (left) and Robert De Niro (right) in the movie.

Did FBI agents run out of gas and land their plane on a fairway?

According to the Casino true story, the FBI agents did land their plane on the fairway at the Las Vegas Country Club where the Rosenthals lived. However, it was due to mechanical problems rather than a lack of fuel. -Skimming the Las Vegas Casinos

Did the real Sam "Ace" Rothstein have his own TV show?

Yes he did. The Frank Rosenthal Show was taped at the Stardust and brought in many big-name guests, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Wayne Newton, Liberace and O.J. Simpson. For those of you who are curious, he claims to have never juggled on the show.

Frank Sinatra (right) appeared as a guest on his friend's show. The Frank Rosenthal Show is often credited as Sinatra's first time on a talk show.

Was Sam the best handicapper in America?

According to Sports Illustrated, Frank Rosenthal is "one of the greatest living experts on sports gambling". -Sports Illustrated article "The Biggest Game in Town"

Is Sam responsible for putting sports betting into casinos?

Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, the real Sam, is credited with putting sports betting in Las Vegas casinos. In 1976, he set up the first sports book in the Stardust, which featured six large televisions. -USA Today

Did Sam and Ginger really get divorced?

Yes. According to Frank, the real story is that he filed for the divorce and for full custody of their children. Geri did not contest it. Their divorce was finalized on January 16, 1981.

Left: Frank and his wife Geri during happier times. Right: Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone in the movie.

Did Ginger really try to run off with their daughter and Lester?

According to Frank Rosenthal (the real Sam Rothstein), his wife and her ex-boyfriend, Lenny Marmor, ran off with his daughter, his son and his money. In the movie, Lenny Marmor is the Lester Diamond character portrayed by James Woods.

Did Artie Piscano die of a heart attack when the FBI found mob records in his home?

No. The Casino movie character Artie Piscano was based on Carl "Tuffy" DeLuna. The raid on his home happened on February 14, 1979. Unlike what is depicted in the movie, Tuffy did not die of a heart attack during the raid. He was sentenced to prison for his participation in skimming Las Vegas casinos and was released in 1998. He died ten years later on July 21, 2008 in Kansas City, Missouri. -The Chicago Syndicate

Did Sam survive a car bomb assassination attempt?

Yes. On October 4, 1982, Frank Rosenthal left Tony Roma's restaurant on East Sahara Avenue and got into his Cadillac which then exploded. Amazingly, he survived with minor burns and injuries. A variety of factors have been attributed to his survival, including a metal plate under the driver's seat, the driver's side door being open at the time of the explosion, and pure luck. -NY Times

Top: Rosenthal's 1981 Cadillac El Dorado after the explosion. Bottom: Robert De Niro's character dives away from his exploding car in the movie. Courtesy Las Vegas Review-Journal Archive

Why did Sam's car have a metal plate under the driver's seat?

The 1981 Cadillac Eldorado had a balancing problem that was affecting the car's handling. GM installed the metal plate under the driver's seat to correct the problem.

Did Ginger end up with low lives and drug dealers in Los Angeles?

Yes. The true story behind Geri Rosenthal (Ginger in the movie) reveals that her interaction with these people ultimately led to her untimely death. On November 9, 1982, at the age of 46, she died in an LA motel from a drug overdose of valium, cocaine and whiskey. She is buried in Mount Sinai Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Geri Rosenthal (left) and her onscreen Casino movie counterpart portrayed by Sharon Stone (right).

Were Nicky Santoro and his brother, Dominick, really killed?

Yes, the real-life Spilotro brothers were beaten to death, but not in a cornfield as portrayed in the movie. According to Nicholas Calabrese, a former mob hitman who testified in the Operation Family Secrets trial, the brothers were told they were being promoted in the mob. Anthony Spilotro was to become a "capo" and his brother, Michael, was to become a "made member". They were driven to a mob home in Bensenville, Illinois and were beaten to death in the basement. They were later transported to the cornfield in Enos, Indiana. -Chicago Tribune

Burial site in an Enos, Indiana cornfield where the Spilotro brothers, Anthony and Michael, were found.

Is the real Sam still alive?

Mr. Rosenthal died at the age of 79 after suffering a heart attack at his Miami Beach home on October 13, 2008. -NY Times

Did Sam insist on having an equal number of blueberries in each muffin?

According to Nicholas Pileggi, author of the book Casino, Frank Rosenthal was extremely meticulous. He did regulate the number of blueberries per muffin, with each muffin containing at least ten blueberries. -NY Times

Casino: Behind the Movie Interviews & Video

Watch video featuring interviews with Frank Rosenthal, the real Sam Rothstein, portrayed by Robert De Niro in the movie. Also, see footage of Tony Spilotro, the real Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci).

 Frank Rosenthal Interview

Watch Frank Rosenthal interviews and historic video featuring mobster Anthony Spilotro, portrayed by Joe Pesci in the movie Casino.

 Casino Trailer

Watch the Casino movie trailer for the film starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone. Directed by Martin Scorcese, Casino tells the story of sports handicapper Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal in mob-run Las Vegas during the 1970's.