Legendary gambler, Sid Wyman hedges his bet on an opera singer, or was it good publicity?
In 1950, a tip from Governor Al Driscoll of New Jersey set off a raid that closed down a major “nerve center” of the National Crime Syndicate that was operated in St. Louis under the name of C.J. Rich and Co., owned by Sid Wyman and Charles Rich. It was a multi-million dollar operation that even employed a publicity man who went from state to state drawing up lists of prospective customers who received advertising letters how to use Western Union to telegraph the bets. Their advertising was catchy: “no transactions too large; none too small,” and claimed, “Our odds are the best in the country; we invite comparison.”
Wyman and Rich went on to become huge successful operators of the Dunes Hotel and Country Club, in Las Vegas, and used their great experience in gambling to accomplish this feat. Publicity, marketing, good food, great entertainment and good gambling was their key to buying business, so to say, at the Dunes Hotel.
They learned how to bring the players into their operation, and in one of their early endeavors of operating as partners in the Royal Nevada Hotel and Casino, in 1955, which was adjacent to the empty lot wherein the Stardust would be built in 1958, For the opening, they took out a $150,000 policy with Lloyds of London against the possibility of the opening opera singer, Helen Traubel, coming down with laryngitis, as did tenor Mario Lanza a week before. Lanza had a $100,000 two week engagement in the New Frontier’s newly million dollar Venus showroom, and could not make the curtain call. The press blasted the two week engagement, conducted by Ray Sinatra, with a headline that said, “Lanza can’t sing for his $50,000 a week”.
Helen Traubel was coincidentally from St. Louis, wherein Rich and Wyman were residents and that is where Charles J. Rich met his lifelong friend Cary Grant. Perhaps Cary Grant had some influence on their selection of Trauble? I am only surmising.
Sid Wyman, Royal Nevada managing director, said “we anticipate no trouble with Traubel but we think it is only good business to protect ourselves.” Sid was a smart bookmaker and knew that even a sure thing sometimes loses