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 15th, but I had no idea what it meant. It turns out that Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15th, more than 2000 years ago. Not a good day for Rome. 2000 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 poosible that 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 today. 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 that 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 side 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 which 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 Pai Gow Tiles game. Somedays 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 that many of those 'slots' aren't even slots, they are video poker machines. Slots got an upgrade and the Player got 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 Player and Player's can make informed choices.
On the table game side of things, the casinos went from effectively 3 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 Gaming Today right now while still in a casino, please go down to the casino floor and take not of how many of the 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, has Blue Man Group really changed the make up of Las Vegas or casinos in general the way Lenny Frome has? If not for my father, it is highly likely that 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 Gaming Today 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 () and let him know that you think it's time to induct my father into the Gaming Hall of Fame!