Remembering difference Lenny made in Las Vegas

Mar 19, 2013 3:00 AM

I have to be honest, I had to look up the historical significance and meaning of the “Ides of March.” I knew it occurred on March 15, but I had no idea what it meant.

It turns out Julius Caesar was assassinated on that date, more than 2,000 years ago. Not a good day for Rome. Two thousand years later, it would be not a good day for Frome either. It was 15 years ago, on March 15, 1998 that my father, Lenny Frome, passed away.

I say this somewhat tongue in cheek, but it is possible Las Vegas has changed more since my parents moved here in 1985 than Rome changed since Julius Caesar began his rule.

In 1985, there was no Bellagio, no Treasure Island, no Excalibur, no New York-New York, no Luxor, no Stratosphere and no Venetian. The hotels that still stand looked quite different than they do now. Today they reach right out to the Strip. Then, many were set back hundreds of feet.

I believe Caesars was the first to attempt to build a “people mover” (a moving walkway) to bring people from the street all the way to their front door. It didn’t take long to realize the walkway only worked in one direction.

There was no assistance in leaving the building. The overhead walkways that now exist at Flamingo and Tropicana didn’t exist either. Of course, those streets weren’t quite as wide as they are now. If I recall correctly, there were about 500,000 people living in Las Vegas back then as compared to over 2 million today.

When I tell my friends who live in Vegas that my parents lived on the East side, they want to know why not the “newer” West side. Well, the west was mostly desert when they moved to Las Vegas. Where I now live was only built in the early 1990’s, several years after they moved here. Some things have stayed the same. There’s still Harrie’s Bagelmania (albeit without Harrie, who passed away a few years ago).

Ethel M is still here, although, I think their building got a bit larger in all these years. The chocolate is still just as good! Of course, the Hoover Dam is still here, but now it has an incredible concrete suspension bridge that overshadows it a bit.

Truth be told, my father had little to do with these changes. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t leave an incredible impact on Las Vegas. What he changed was the inside of the casino.

In 1985, if you walked through a Strip casino, you’d hear the clinking of coins from slot machines. As you meandered through, you’d see almost exclusively craps, blackjack and roulette tables, with an occasional Big Wheel or maybe a Pai Gow tiles game. Some days I wonder how the casinos thrived on such meager offerings.

Today, you don’t hear the clink of any coins because the slots take in cash and give back paper tickets. If you pay attention, you’ll note many of those aren’t even slots, they are video poker machines. Slots got an upgrade and the player received a fighting chance. Instead of 92-93% slot machines that require no thinking or skill, a significant amount of the casino floor has become video poker machines, where strategy rules and paybacks can go up over 100%. Nothing is hidden from the players and they can make informed choices.

On the table game side of things, the casinos went from effectively three choices to literally dozens. It is a potpourri of games – Three Card Poker, Four Card Poker, Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch, Caribbean Stud Poker, Let It Ride, Crazy 4 Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud Poker, etc…

If you are reading GamingToday right now while still in a casino, please go down to the casino floor and take note of how many table games are not blackjack, roulette and craps. Then think about how much more fun the casino is with all of these new games.

Back in the 90’s, my father helped to develop Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud and Spanish 21. These games opened the floodgates for all those that followed. His impact to the casino was absolutely immeasurable.

About 15 months ago, I nominated my father to the American Gaming Association’s Hall of Fame. Much to my disappointment, they did not pick him. Two years ago, they elected Blue Man Group to the Hall of Fame. I recently saw their show at the Monte Carlo. It was quite entertaining, but have they really changed the makeup of Las Vegas or casinos in general the way Lenny Frome has?

If not for my father, it is highly likely video poker would never have become nearly as popular as it is today. Games like Three Card Poker and Let It Ride might not have succeeded, and all the games that followed may never have been given an opportunity to succeed if not for the impact one “retired” electrical engineer had on the industry.

Many of you have written to me over the past decade telling me how much you enjoyed reading my father’s column in GT way back when. If you’re one of those people who recognize the impact Lenny Frome had on the casino, then I’m asking you to send an e-mail to Brian Lehman at the American Gaming Association ([email protected]) and let him know you think it’s time to induct my father into the Gaming Hall of Fame!

Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Contact Elliot at [email protected].

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