Though he was a Las Vegas impresario and master of publicity ploys,Â Bob Stupak never saw some of his grandest visions come true, such as constructing a giant King Kong on the side of a tower, or building a casino in the shape of the sinking Titanic. Expensive efforts to achieve political office also faltered.
But the casino operator and fixture in the local media did realize his dream of building the Stratosphere tower as a giant monument to himselfÂ and to the city that at onceembraced and derided him. Mr. Stupak died Sept. 25 after struggling with leukemia. He was 67 years old.
He was a flamboyant throw-back to the casino mecca’s anything-goes early days, though he operated at a time when corporations were entering the casino business and working to transform it into something more respectable.Â His crowning achievement was the Stratosphere, which transformed the burgeoning city’s skyline and featured thrill rides at the top of a 1,149 foot tower.
Mr. Stupak grew up in Pittsburgh and spent most of his life surrounded by gamblers. His father operated a floating illegal craps game for 50 years. A high school dropout who began operating gambling ventures in army barracks, Mr. Stupak later led a business selling dinner coupon books in Australia.
He brought that to Las Vegas in 1972 and not long after bought a parcel of land on Las Vegas Boulevard in a downtrodden area between the resort casinos on the Strip and older casinos downtown. He said later that he didn’t realize it wasn’t the Strip.
Gifted at superlatives, he opened Bob Stupak’s World Famous Historic Gambling Museum. There, according to local historian Michael Green, he advertised that customers could see a $10,000 bill. (It was a fake.) Â After the museum burned down under mysterious circumstances, he built Bob Stupak’s Vegas World in 1979 with a $1 million loan. With a vague outer space theme, Mr. Stupak filled the casino with such oddities as moon rocks, a tic-tac-toe-playing rooster that always won, and new house-friendly casino games such as “crapless craps.”Vegas World advertised “Virtually Free” Las Vegas vacations through schemes that later came under the wrath of regulators. It generated $100 million in revenue at its peak.
Mr. Stupak refused to use the word “gaming,” as others in the industry preferred, according to the Las Vegas Business Press, and instead stuck with “gambling.” He was a fixture in the poker rooms and sports books of casinos around the Strip and downtown, and said he gambled every single day of his adult life.
R.I.P. Mr. Stupak.
Read more about his life dreams and achievementsÂ here.