Lefty Rosenthal couldn’t have been particularly happy when Tony Spilotro showed up in Las Vegas, knowing the potential impact of their relationship on his future licensing possibilities. Those concerns proved to be well-founded. But for the up-and-coming gaming tycoon, they weren’t the worst of it.
The first four years of marriage had been fruitful for the Rosenthals. They had two children, first Stephen and then Stephanie. Lefty’s position at the Stardust came with a hefty contract. Geri lived the good life and money was no object. On the surface, their lives seemed nearly ideal. But behind the facade, Geri Rosenthal was an unhappy woman. She entered into matrimony somewhat reluctantly, and as time passed she seemed to regret that decision.
When Lefty’s professional life became difficult as he fought the gaming regulators, his children provided an escape from the stress. Both youngsters were natural swimmers. Geri and Lefty spent a lot of time working with them in the family swimming pool on hot desert afternoons. The kids eventually became members of the Las Vegas Sandpipers swim team. The proud parents attended all of their tournaments and the doting father served as the official announcer at the meets, except for the races in which his children participated. When Rosenthal was ousted from the casino business in 1978, he remained upbeat, calling the decision a “blessing in disguise,” as it allowed him to devote more time to Stephen and Stephanie.
While the children provided solace for Lefty, the same couldn’t be said of Geri. She’d become increasingly disgruntled with her situation, drinking to excess, taking drugs, and frequently staying out all night. Lefty was concerned about her behavior for more than one reason. In addition to the strain her conduct was placing on their marriage, on a professional level, he had to worry about whom she was spending her time with and what she was saying to them. Lefty, after all, held a powerful position in the gaming industry, operating in the shadowy world of organized crime. His enemies or rivals could use his wife to obtain information to blackmail him. And the law always lurking in the background had an army of undercover operatives and informants with their noses to the ground in pursuit of usable intelligence. To help him keep track of Geri, Lefty demanded that she carry a mobile phone with her at all times. For Geri, the situation was becoming intolerable.
As if the Gaming Control Board, the law, and his wife weren’t causing the oddsmaker enough grief, his old buddy Tony Spilotro was now running amok. Lefty encouraged Tony to keep a low profile, but the Ant seemed intent not only on expanding his criminal empire, but actually hogging the law enforcement and media spotlight. In fact, Tony wanted Lefty’s full support in his efforts. When Rosenthal refused, the relationship between the two men grew tense at best.
And then it happened. In July 1978, right on the heels of his gaming license being denied, Geri admitted to her husband that she was having an affair. That news was bad enough. Worse yet, her lover was none other than Tony Spilotro himself. Lefty must have been angry and hurt, but he was also scared. He made Geri promise not to tell Spilotro that she had confessed. There was no telling what the bosses in Chicago would do if they discovered their Las Vegas enforcer had become involved with their embattled inside-man’s wife.
Tony would certainly know that and with the relationship between him and Lefty already deteriorating, he’d fear that the aggrieved husband might make a complaint to Chicago. Lefty knew that people who posed a threat to Tony tended to have a brief life expectancy. He told Geri that if the volatile Spilotro learned Lefty knew the truth, he’d probably kill them both. They had no choice but to continue on as though nothing were wrong. It would be difficult, but their lives probably depended on it.
So, while Lefty struggled under his many burdens, Tony Spilotro cruised along, seemingly immune from being taken to task for any of his alleged wrongdoings. In fact, the Ant was simultaneously extending his influence and laying the groundwork for future expansion — westward.