One of the most colorful and ambitious characters of the Las Vegas gambling world is in a local hospital, grasping at the last bits of life. Bob Stupek. And not ONE local news outlet is saying a peep about it. Not one.
Ok, there is a really small article buried inside the Las Vegas Review Journal about Bob Stupak. But that’s it. That’s it?? Can you name one other living casino owner/operator in Las Vegas with this much character, backbone and grit?
This is the guy who brought us The Million Dollar Historic Gambling Museum, the world’s first quarter million and million dollar jackpots on slot machines, Vegas World Casino, 2 for 1 coupons, Glitter Gulch, and of course, the Stratosphere Tower. He was also the first person to make a $1 million bet on Super Bowl XXIII (and won). Not to mention a whole list of other wild, crazy and sometimes stupid ideas that got him and Las Vegas a ton of free marketing.
Ok, he also had a few crazy ideas. Like the casino and resort modeled after the Titanic. Not to mention his list of failed political ambitions: Mayor of Las Vegas and the lieutenant Governor of Nevada. All filled with questionable marketing practices.
The reason for the lack of media coverage may be that Stupak had a great knack for rubbing the corporate suits on the strip the wrong way. He definitely was not a snappy dresser and always liked to live in the gray areas of the law. Who doesn’t do that every now and than?
He also liked for Las Vegas to live up to its name, “Sin City” . Bob Stupek, of all the current casino owners, knew the marketing of Las Vegas was in its ability to allow people to come out here and do what they can’t do back home. Today’s suits want to pretend that Vegas is clean cut, family friendly and affordable to all. Stupak, well he didn’t…And for that, the media satisfies the suits and buries the story.
Bob Stupak, known as the Polish Maverick, is suffering from Leukemia.
We wish him the best
Editors Update: Bob Stupak died of leukemia on September 25, 2009, at the age of 67.
Bob Stupak moved to Las Vegas in 1971. His first business venture into gaming came when he bought the Vault casino downtown and changed its name to Glitter Gultch. He also created a cowgirl sign named Vegas Vicki for his casino to compete with the iconic Vegas Vic sign across Fremont Street at the Pioneer Club. Bob eventually raised enough money to acquire a small, 1.5 acres parcel north of Sahara Avenue at Las Vegas Boulevard South. Bob Stupak’s World Famous Historic Gambling Museum opened for business. “The name was about 10 ft longer than the casino,” Stupak recalled years later. Two months later an air conditioner caught fire and the building burned down.
In 1990, Bob Stupak approached the mayor and city council with a plan to build the largest free standing sign in the world. His plan was for an 1,800 foot tall neon sign that would tower over Las Vegas. Then-Councilman Steve Miller, an airline instructor pilot, convinced Stupak to redesign the structure to include an observation deck. Miller took Stupak for a flight over Vegas World in Miller’s private plane. There they circled for over an hour at altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet watching the sun set. Stupak told Miller that to not share such a beautiful sight would be a sin, and he immediately went to work revising his plans to include a restaurant and amusement rides at the top of what was then to be called the “Stupak Tower.” Soon, Bob held a press conference and announced his plan with the caveat that his tower would be the icon of Las Vegas, and Steve Wynn’s Mirage would be two miles from him, not the other way around. Within a year of Stupak’s announcement, the tower construction began. Now called The Stratosphere!