Las Vegas history is rich with colorful personalities. Here are the ones we believe had the biggest influence on the city's casino industry.
Over the course of a century, hundreds of individuals have contributed to the extraordinary success and longevity of America's greatest gaming city. Now that Las Vegas is on the cusp of celebrating its 100th birthday, the editors of Casino Journal and Ascend Media Gaming Group wanted to recognize the people who had the greatest hand in shaping the city's casino history.
Choosing the top movers and shakers from among those hundreds was a monumental task, and one that is sure to be argued over for weeks to come. In an effort to cover all bases, we grouped individuals into ten separate categories, with each category featuring one person who, in our opinion, best personifies that segment of the industry. In addition, each category includes a host of honorable mentions.
A number of sources were used to compile this list. Primary among them, and deserving of special mention, was The First 100: Portraits of the Men and Women Who Shaped Las Vegas, which is published by Huntington Press.
Because without roads, water and money, Las Vegas would still be a desert
E. Parry Thomas
If money is the fuel upon which Las Vegas runs, E. Parry Thomas was the man with his foot on the gas. As the CEO of the Bank of Las Vegas (later Valley Bank, now part of Bank of America), Thomas' company was the only financial institution in town that was willing to extend loans to casino entities. Before Thomas came to town, the local properties were forced to use their own money for projects, greatly inhibiting the growth of the industry.
Thomas changed all that. With remarkable foresight, the banker arrived in Las Vegas in the 1950s and instantly saw its potential. First would come a "pioneering" phase to the town, when city would be filled with Mom & Pop operators eager to be the first in the door. Then would come expansion and, finally, consolidation. His predictions about the future of Vegas were extraordinarily prescient.
"We had a road map in front of us," Thomas told journalist John G. Edwards in the late 1990s. "All we had to do was to follow it."
He made it sound easy, but no other bankers were interested in loaning to Vegas casinos, perhaps out of fear the properties were mobbed up. Thomas saw it differently.
"We felt a great obligation to deal with all legitimate enterprises within the state," Thomas said.
In the mid-1950s, Thomas' bank made its first casino loan to Milton Prell for the Sahara in the amount of $750,000. A half-century later, when Bank of America took over, Thomas' brain child had over $400 million in equity.
Along the way, Thomas became one of the driving forces for changing the law that prohibited publicly-held companies from owning casinos, paving the way for Wall Street's entry into the Las Vegas gaming industry.
Honorable Mentions: George "Bud' Albright, as a Clark County Commission member in the 1950s, Albright championed the building of the Las Vegas convention center and the room tax to fund it. Edmund Converse created Bonanza Air, the first airline dedicated to bringing passengers to and from Las Vegas for gambling. Jim Cashman helped establish the first highway connecting Las Vegas and California. C.D. Baker was the mayor who modernized much of the city's infrastructure during the 1950s and 60s.
It's an era Las Vegas would like to forget, but in their own way, these individuals were pioneers and entrepreneurs and important to the city's history
Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel
The handsome underworld figure leaps from his car in the middle of the Nevada desert and strides purposefully out into the sand, leaving his beautiful girlfriend to sit and stare in impatient confusion. Spreading his arms wide, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel gasps with delight as visions of a stunning new resort flood his consciousness. It was the bolt from out of the blue that eventually led to the creation of the glittering city of Las Vegas. Soon, Siegel would be single-handedly responsible for the construction of Las Vegas' first real casino resort, the Flamingo, and a billion-dollar industry would soon follow.
Well, at least that was the Hollywood version, developed by and starring Warren Beatty. In truth, there is much more myth to the story of Bugsy Siegel than there is reality. Contrary to popular belief, Siegel didn't "invent" Las Vegas. But Vegas is a city built on legends, and Bugsy's is as good a legend as any to start with.
The Flamingo was actually the creation of nightclub owner and Hollywood Reporter founder Billy Wilkerson, who used Seigel's underworld connections to finance the development of his dream project in the desert. A sociopath with Hollywood aspirations, Siegel threw himself into the development of the property, an odd amalgamation of grand luxury and bunker-style paranoia. Complete with pools, tennis courts and riding stables of the like never seen in any hotel before, the Flamingo also had reinforced concrete walls strong enough to stop bullets from competing gangsters and a suite built especially for Siegel that was riddled with secret escape hatches.
When completed at the very end of 1946, the property was 400 percent over budget. A disastrous opening night and Siegel's increasingly high-profile in Hollywood made his mobster backers increasingly uneasy, and Siegel was marked for death.
Interestingly enough, it was his gangland-style execution in 1947 that many experts credit with the surge of interest in Las Vegas, rather than the development of the city's first real casino resort.
Siegel's violent demise, historian Frank Wright told Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, "was a great advertisement for the city of Las Vegas, in a sense. It certainly brought attention to Las Vegas and created a sense of illicit excitement about Las Vegas."
And thus a legend was born.
Honorable Mentions: Morris B. "Moe" Dalitz was the rum-runner and operator of illegal casinos in Ohio, Rhode Island and Kentucky who built the Desert Inn, bought the Stardust and eventually went legit. Tony Cornero may have been the first to marry the concept of a high-class hotel with gambling and entertainment when he opened The Meadows in 1931. Gus Greenbaum made the Flamingo successful after Bugsy Siegel's death. Milton Prell built the Bingo Club, Bonanza Room and, more famously, the Sahara and the Aladdin in the 1950s.
Politics & the Law
Without the reforms pushed by these gentlemen, Las Vegas might still be run the Mob, taxed by the federal government and full of downtrodden employees
Nowadays high-tech security applications like digital cameras, shared computerized databases and even electronic fingerprinting have kept the worst of America's criminals and cheats out of Las Vegas's casinos. But all that began with a quaintly old-fashioned paper document called "The List of Excluded Persons," dubbed "The Black Book" by casino operators and the press.
It was the first and most lasting effort to keep crooks out of the nation's gambling houses, and Grant Sawyer is the man we have to thank for it. The former Nevada governor, who served two memorable terms in the early- and mid-1960s, fought hard to clean up Nevada's then-largely mobbed up casino properties. Through his efforts, the Nevada Gaming Commission and the Nevada Gaming Control Board were created.
And though his record on the environment is spotty at best, he is largely credited with preserving Lake Tahoe's natural beauty by putting restrictions on over-development.
When there were threats of race riots in the turbulent year of 1965, Sawyer reportedly drove into black neighborhoods to personally talk to residents there. With tensions diminished, he publicly announced that, unlike Watts in Los Angeles, no citizen of Las Vegas would be impacted by gang violence.
"Sawyer faced a civil rights crisis, and he faced it squarely and honestly," Gary Elliott, co-author of Sawyer's oral history, "Hang Tough," told Las Vegas Review-Journal Special Projects Editor A.D. Hopkins in the late 1990s. "He faced the fact gaming was in trouble, and realized we had to have strong enforcement."
Along the way, he was one of the few individuals with intestinal fortitude enough to take on both then-Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (when Kennedy planned a wholesale raid on each of the big Las Vegas casinos) and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (who, Sawyer believed, had illegally wiretapped Carl Cohen, a ten percent owner of the Sands).
When he retired from politics after a last bruising campaign for governor in 1966, Sawyer formed a law partnership with Las Vegas lawyer Sam Lionel and former Nevada Supreme Court judge Jon Collins. Lionel, Sawyer and Collins brought the partners further wealth and influence in the state, but Sawyer's real lasting legacy is a little black book and two regulatory agencies that continue to serve his mission to keep Nevada's casinos clean.
Honorable Mentions: Pat McCarren was the long-time Nevada Senator who, in 1951, defeated an attempt to place national tax on gambling, thereby preserving the city's casino industry and setting an important precedent. Robbins Cahill, in working with the Nevada Tax Commission, was able to set up and enforce gaming tax laws and game licensing structures, which ultimately helped to clean-up the gaming industry in Las Vegas and Nevada. Charles Kellar was the lawyer who helped desegregate casino industry. Al Bramlet was a labor organizer who helped create and lead the Culinary Workers union in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Current Mayor Oscar Goodman has been a champion of downtown revitalization, focusing his efforts on creating a downtown urban village filled with small businesses, boutiques, restaurants and bookstores. Arguably the most influential gaming attorney in Nevada, Bob Faiss, was once executive assistant go Grant Sawyer (see above) and now a partner in the law firm Sawyer created, Lionel, Sawyer and Collins.
Las Vegas casino development went to a whole new level once recognizable entertainers were added in the 1950s
Frank Sinatra & Jack Entratter
He's been called the most influential entertainer of the second half of the Twentieth Century, and his mammoth sales of recordings and concert tickets and movie box-office receipts certainly bear up that claim. While the cities of Palm Springs and New York certainly bear the imprint of the legendary singer from Hoboken, N.J., it is Las Vegas that owes the Chairman of the Board the greatest debt of thanks.
When he first began performing at the Vegas casinos in the early 1950s, there were only a handful of hotels on the Strip and a population of less than 50,000. But Sinatra was such a force of nature that he drew crowds of gamblers and celebrities wherever he went, instantly raising the profile of the desert gaming mecca.
But if Sinatra alone was a big draw, his appearances with friends Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop made Vegas the center of the entertainment universe in the early 1960s, forever imprinting the city with a finger snapping swagger.
Said Keely Smith, a close friend and occasional duet partner with Sinatra: "When Frank came into the city, that certainly helped it, because Frank was bigger than life. But Frank by himself wasn't as strong as when the Rat Pack came along. They just exploded all over the world."
Smith, whose latest CD is, appropriately enough, entitled Vegas '58 – Today, said Sinatra was known as someone who would draw both high-rollers and show business personalities.
"Frank would have always brought in gamblers," Smith said. "Certain acts bring in gamblers and certain acts won't. Frank brought in gamblers because Frank had that reputation, you know, as a rough and tumble kind of guy. When he came to see our shows, he'd bring big people like Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy. He had some heavy duty people with him. Whenever he opened at the Sands, half the people in the audience would be celebrities."
It's almost impossible to talk about Sinatra in Vegas during the late 1950s and early '60s without mentioning Jack Entratter, the then-general manager of the Sands, a property in which Sinatra had an equity stake and performed regularly. Entratter was largely responsible for bringing the big talent to Las Vegas showrooms, including Lena Horne and Danny Thomas. But the biggest arrow in his entertainment quiver was Sinatra, a fact nearly everyone was aware of.
"Jack Entratter was influential in Las Vegas because of Frank, less so by himself," Smith said. "Jack Entratter was very strong in Las Vegas once he got there, and I think it was because of Frank. I mean, if you could get Frank on the phone, everybody was your friend."
Honorable Mentions: Bill Miller was the agent who conceived and booked many of the early Las Vegas lounge acts such as Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Louis Prima & Keely Smith, Sonny & Cher and Elvis as part owner of the Sahara (and employee of the Dunes) in the early 1950s. Donn Arden melded a various entertainment elements such as topless dancers, lead singers, chorus acts to create the Las Vegas showroom spectacular. Burton Cohen (see interview, page 18) is an attorney and former resort executive who pioneered special event creation and planning at casinos. Bob Bailey broke the color barrier for local Las Vegas entertainers by producing interracial entertainment shows at the Moulin Rouge in the 1950s. Elvis (Presley, of course) provided a much needed spark in the 1970s when Las Vegas was in one of its rare downturns. Wayne Newton became highest paid entertainer in the world by working almost exclusively in Las Vegas from the 1960s through today. Siegfried & Roy revived and reinvented the magic and stage show in the 1980s and 1990s. Celine Dion is the first individual star to have an entire showroom built specifically for her, sparking a trend that continues today. When he created the Cirque du Soliel, Franco Dragone forever changed the face of the entertainment in Vegas, ushering in an era of massive production shows with fantastically elaborate sets and costumes and casts of hundreds.
Here are the people who turned this area into the worldwide symbol for Las Vegas
Take a walk down the Las Vegas Strip and you'll see just about every type of casino "theme" imaginable, from the Manhattan city skyscraper to Robert Louis Stevenson pirate fantasies. Nowadays every casino developer and his uncle has an idea for the newest, hottest casino "theme," but it all really began with one man: Jay Sarno.
"You can get an argument over who started the Las Vegas Strip, but there's no question it was Jay Sarno who changed it forever," wrote A.D. Hopkins in The First 100: Portraits of the Men and Women Who Shaped Las Vegas. "The fast-living genius behind Caesars Palace and Circus Circus invented the fantasy resort and the modern family resort, twin ideas that have guided the past three decades of Las Vegas' growth."
His first project in Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, was built at a then-astronomical cost of $24 million in 1966, and Sarno was meticulous in creating a fantasy world of Roman décor and toga-clad waitresses. Three years later it sold for an even more astronomical $60 million.
For his next trick, he created a property that appealed to every adolescent's desire to run away and join the circus. Sarno's general manager at the time was Burton Cohen.
"Working with Jay Sarno was like holding onto two ends of a lit firecracker," Cohen said. "Jay had no respect for return on capital investment. He was a visionary. It was nothing for Jay to spend a hundred million dollars on a restaurant that would be unique and different. It was my job to contain that course, and when you have a limited bankroll that becomes a very difficult job with a visionary."
Sarno's profligate ways, combined with a couple of bad business decisions and the gas crisis of the 1970s badly impacted Circus Circus profits. He leased the property to gaming executive Bill Bennett in 1974. Bennett was able to turn the property around and purchased it outright a decade later. To the credit of both men, the property still stands, and still turns a profit to this day.
Sarno's next announced project was the 6,000-room Grandisimo hotel, but he was unable to get financing, and died of a heart attack in his suite at Caesars in 1984.
Though gone for two decades now, the seeds of Sarno's vision remain in the gaudy, fantasy world of grand themes that Las Vegas has become.
Honorable Mentions: Thomas Hull opened the El Rancho in 1941, a property that combined casino gaming with hotel accommodations and an entertainment showroom, thereby becoming the first genuine resort casino on the Las Vegas Strip. William Moore co-founded, with R.E. Griffith, the Last Frontier, the second Strip-based resort casino and the first to employ an overall theme (Frontier Village, an ode to Las Vegas' western past, complete with buildings taken from actual ghost towns). The Frontier was also one of the first properties to organize airline junkets. Harvey Diederich, the public relations officer for the aforementioned Frontier (and later the Hacienda and Tropicana) was known for publicity photos and TV ads that helped shape Las Vegas' early swingin' image.
The downtown and local casino markets might never have developed without the vision of these individuals
Benny Binion & Sam Boyd
The masterminds of downtown Las Vegas, Benny Binion and Sam Boyd shared an adventuresome drive to build off-strip empires, and succeeded by appealing to customers in very different ways.
Benny Binion opened his Binion's Horseshoe casino in 1951 and made waves throughout the city by immediately setting the house limit on craps at $500-10 times the maximum at other casinos. The new limits made Binion's Horseshoe notorious among other business owners locally while at the same time making it a magnet for gamblers. Along the way Binion gained a reputation-right or wrong-among his customers that he was willing to let the little guy win big. Before long the other Las Vegas properties were following suit, expanding their house limits often begrudgingly.
Vegas was still a small town of about 30,000 when Binion arrived in the late 1940s, and the casino properties in town reflected that small town feel. They were, by some accounts, cheesy affairs lacking so much as a decent floor covering. Binion changed all that, too, sprucing up the Vegas casino image by installing carpeting at his property, offering limo service and free drinks at the slots.
And though it might be hard for cable TV programmers born after 1980 to believe, there was a time when nobody had ever heard of a major poker tournament in Las Vegas. Binion promoted not only a money-making table game competition but practically an entire television industry by taking over the World Series of Poker in 1970 and marketing it heavily.
According to company lore, Sam Boyd arrived in Las Vegas in 1941 with just $80 and a dream. Working his way up from dealer to pit boss to shift supervisor, Boyd finally raised enough money to buy a share in the Sahara. He subsequently became general manager of the Mint downtown, where his innovative approach to business and entertainment drew attention and respect from the rest of the gaming community.
With his son Bill beside him, Boyd opened the California Hotel & Casino in 1975, essentially establishing the Boulder Strip as a major gaming destination within the city.
That was followed by Sam's Town. Constructed on what was then the peaceful intersection of Boulder Highway and Nellis Boulevard, it was Las Vegas' first locals casino.
More properties followed in rapid succession. Today, Boyd Gaming Corp. has casino properties in six gaming jurisdictions nationwide.
Honorable Mentions: Mayme Stocker was the holder of Las Vegas' first legal casino license and owned the Northern Club, one of Fremont Street's first casinos. Jackie and Michael Gaughan helped revive the downtown and locals Las Vegas casino markets with the Coast casino concept. William Boyd (see above) spread his father's concept of local casinos to other Las Vegas locations. As president and CEO of Showboat Las Vegas in the 1980s and 90s, Frank Modica helped refine the locals market concept. He first came to Las Vegas in the 1960s and at various times ran The Landmark, Desert Inn, Maxim and Holiday International (now Harrah's). Frank Fertitta III pushed the locals concept beyond Las Vegas with Station Casinos.
The visionary businessmen who turned casino companies from Mom and Pop enterprises of dubious ethics to publicly-owned, multi-national companies
Del Webb was a man way ahead of his time. Decades before the current wave of casino industry consolidation, Del Webb created the first casino conglomerate by placing the Thunderbird, Lucky Club and the Mint under one company banner.
Though he made several fortunes in the casino industry, getting his start by completing the development of the Flamingo Hotel for Bugsy Siegel, he was already a millionaire several times over by the time he came to Las Vegas in the 1940s. Webb got his start in construction in the 1930s, and, according to A.D. Hopkins' account in The First 100: Portraits of the Men and Women Who Shaped Las Vegas, Webb, "took jobs nobody else had tried, finished them fast, did them well. He helped shape not only Nevada but its gaming industry, the entire American Southwest and even Major League Baseball."
(In the 1950s, Webb was so wealthy he was able to purchase the New York Yankees).
After his experience building the Flamingo, Webb went on to construct dozens of high-profile buildings in Vegas, including City Hall and several high schools.
Eventually Webb's company, Del Webb Corp., landed the contract to build the Sahara. Webb Corp. executive L.C. Jacobson was allowed to purchase up to 20 percent of stock in the newly-constructed Sahara in return for helping the original developer with financing. Later, Jacboson brokered a deal turning over his interests in the Sahara to Webb in exchange for 1.5 million shares of Del Webb Corp. stock. Since Webb Corp. had gone public in 1960, this landmark deal meant that, for the first time, a Las Vegas casino was now owned by a respected publicly traded company.
After a series of acquisitions in the 1960s and '70s, Del Webb Corp. became the largest gaming employer in Nevada, with 7,000 employees.
It turned out he was more than just a man ahead of his time. In 1964 he was also TIME magazine's "Man of the Year." Forty years after having been bestowed that honor, his thumb print is still visible in the architecture of Las Vegas.
Honorable Mentions: Kirk Kerkorian is considered by most to be the father of the Las Vegas megaresort. He bought Strip land in the 1960s that eventually became Caesars. With the help of Fred Benninger, he bought Flamingo and then built International Hotel (which eventually became the Las Vegas Hilton) at 30 stories and 1,512 rooms, the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1969. He bought MGM Studios in the 1970s and used the name to open the then-MGM Grand (Now Bally's) on the Strip. When it opened in 1973, it was the largest hotel in the world and included amenities such as a shopping arcade and movie theater. Forever trying to top himself, he eventually opened the second MGM Grand, one of the largest resorts in Las Vegas, in 1993. In 2000, MGM Grand Inc., Kerkorian's company, bought Mirage Resorts, renaming the larger company MGM-Mirage. Four years later it purchased Mandalay Resort Group, creating the largest casino company in the known universe. That is, until an even larger gaming conglomerate is created through Harrah's acquisition of Caesars, a company which was in itself a consolidation of Park Place Entertainment (led by honchos Barron Hilton, Stephen Bollenbach and the late Arthur Goldberg) and Caesars, then owned by Starwood, got it? (Harrah's, by the way was formerly headed by Phil Satre, now by Gary Loveman). Mandalay Resort Group was largely the brainchild of William Bennett (see Jay Sarno, above), who with partner Bill Pennington, bought Circus Circus and adopted it to cater to the middle-America market. They then took the company public before it was swallowed by MGM-Mirage. Bennett can also be credited as one of the first to recognize the importance of electronic slot gaming to the casino industry and was instrumental in developing other themed resorts such as Excalibur and Luxor. Howard Hughes starting buying Las Vegas casinos and real estate in the mid-1960s, and by doing so helped to end organized crime's hold on the gaming industry. His arrival also gave Las Vegas a huge PR boost by helping to legitimize the community as a good place to invest.
The people who were instrumental in the development and evolution of Las Vegas' major entertainment resorts
Steve Wynn just can't help himself. Every few years he just feels the compunction to reinvent Las Vegas, and he's done so, with astounding success, for 40 years. He had been in Las Vegas only a few years by 1973 when he purchased a sizeable share in the Golden Nugget downtown. During that whirlwind early period, he also invested in The Frontier, finagled some prime property adjacent to Caesars Palace from Howard Hughes and then sold the same property to Caesars for nearly twice his initial investment.
At the Nugget, he increased the pre-tax profits from $1.1 million to $4.2 million. Then he added 579 upscale hotel rooms and nearly tripled profits to $12 million annually. That money allowed him to invest $10 million on a downtrodden Atlantic City hotel, spruce it up and sell it for $440 million a few years later.
What followed in 1989 was the 3,000-room, $600 million-plus Mirage, the first new hotel on the Strip in sixteen years. The South Seas Island-themed property was an immediate smash and ushered in a new age of elaborate, luxuriously appointed casino properties that continues to this day. A few years later came Treasure Island, his pirate-themed property inspired by the Robert Louis Stevenson story.
In 1998 came another home run, the $1.6 billion, 3,000-room Bellagio, which catered to the most upscale of Las Vegas' annual visitors. Two years later MGM Grand purchased Mirage Resorts, in which Wynn owned 23 percent of the stock, for $4.4 billion, allowing him to walk away with about $500 million in his pocket.
This year, Wynn reinvented the Las Vegas casino resort yet again with Wynn Las Vegas, which cost an estimated $2.7 billion dollars to build, making it the most expensive casino resort in the world. It features a 150-foot-tall mountain with a five-story waterfall that cascades into a three-acre, man-made lake and an 18-hole championship golf course. The 42-story property, encased in a coppery bronze, sits on 192 prime Strip acres and has more than 2,700 guest rooms and a 110,000-square-foot casino.
With the doors barely open on this newest endeavor, Wynn is already planning his next moves: a $700 million casino opening next year in Macau and an exclusive, $1.4 billion casino, Encore, to be built next door to the new Wynn Las Vegas.
Analysts often point out that such high-end properties rarely pay big dividends to stockholders, though Wynn has rarely been wrong. So will these massively-priced resorts turn out to be money machines, or Wynn's Folly?
Few would bet against him.
Honorable Mentions: Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn was the first property in the city to take advantage of the brilliant view of the Las Vegas Valley. The celebrity-studded crowd that mobbed the D.I.'s enormously popular Skyroom in the 1950s enjoyed cocktails, dancing and unobstructed scenic wonders. Sheldon Adelson emphasized the importance of convention space in megaresort development when he launched The Venetian in 1999 next door to his Sand's Expo convention center. Tony Marnell developed the enormously profitable and youth-skewing Rio before selling it to Harrah's Entertainment. George Maloof tapped into similar profits by wooing the same hip young crowd with his development of The Palms. But the property that practically invented the 20-something demographic in the Las Vegas casino business was Peter Morton's Hard Rock.
They were the Las Vegas locals who developed the games and products that made Vegas casinos successful
William "Si" Redd, the legendary "king of the slot machines" and founder of International Game Technology (IGT), the dominant slot manufacturer in North America, was nearly as old as Las Vegas itself when he died at age 91 in 2003. His career echoed the rise of the slot machine itself, which represented a tiny portion of casino revenue back in the day when they were meant to entertain the wives of Las Vegas' table game enthusiasts, only to rise to the biggest profitmaker on casino floors today.
Redd is often credited with inventing the video poker machine, an accomplishment that was both a blessing and a curse. As video poker spread like wildfire across the country, to nearly every gaming jurisdiction in America today, complaints often arose that the game was highly addictive.
"Of course it hurts me when such things are said, I guess because it is kind of the truth," Redd told the Las Vegas Sun in 2001, responding to charges that video poker was the "crack cocaine" of gambling. "I never intended it to become that way, and I never could have dreamed of how successful the video poker machine would become."
With a group of engineers at IGT, Redd also created the Megabucks statewide network of gaming machines that pays multimillion-dollar jackpots and video games for keno and blackjack as well as poker.
Like many of the people on this list, Redd was often referred to as one of the "pioneers" of Las Vegas. Frank Fahrenkopf, the president of the American Gaming Association, called Redd "a gambling original" during an interview with the Sun soon after Redd's death. "He had a remarkable personality and an innate understanding for what America's gamblers want and need. He was a linchpin for our industry."
Redd began his career in coin-operated machines selling jukeboxes, developed the Bally's Distributing Company and eventually got the rights to video poker and built IGT into the company that today controls 75 percent of the American slot market.
According to current IGT chairman Chuck Mathewson, Redd "had gaming machines in his blood."
Honorable Mentions: Thomas Young was the founder of Yesco, designer of the signature neon signage that made the Las Vegas Strip the Times Square of the West. Paul Endy's company, PaulSon Gaming, developed secure, custom-molded gaming chips with intricate graphics, photography and other features. Along the way PaulSon became the top gaming supply company in the nation. Bud Jones
created the first plastic injection-molded chips on the market, giving gaming chips far greater longevity and durability.