Yesterday, Las Vegas lost one of the greatest characters to ever grace its landscape, Bob Stupak. The creator of the Vegas World casino in the 70s which morphed later into the Stratosphere, left a permenant mark on the city's skyline and history. Born in Pittsburgh and self-dubbed the "Polish Maverick," he placed his first bet at age 8.Running craps games in the army, he learned that he could make a nice buck because "people were prepared to gamble a little if they had a chance to win a lot." He bounced around the world for a while developing a PT Barnum-like flair for marketing but always had a love for Las Vegas. He finally moved there in the 70s opening a restaurant, gambling museum then Vegas World in 1979. Here he would begin to truly make his mark on Las Vegas. When he realized the Strip ended at Sahara, a quarter mile south of his casino, he took it upon himself to declare the Strip has "officially" been extended. He went to great lengths to get people into his casino in often classic fashion. Vegas World was known for the utmost in gimmick marketing, sometimes ending him up in hot water with the Gaming Commission. Though things like no-craps craps and late-night TV ads selling vacation packages and dealers wearing old-western bowties that read "He's Bob Stupak. He's Polish!" the casino was like no other.
While living in Australia, he got the idea to build the Stratosphere and never gave up on the dream. He knew people were drawn to tall buildings and set out to build the tallest one west of the Mississippi River. When first proposed; people said he was insane, that planes would crash in it. Persistant as always, Stupak was undeterred. Despite having to take on investors that would eventually drive him out and force the place into bankruptcy, his vision was achieved and Stratosphere remains one of the must-see atrraction in Vegas and an icon that can been seen from anywhere in the Vegas valley.
Stupak's personal life was as colorful as his professional one. He once bet a million dollars on the Super Bowl and was an accomplished poker player if not so much for his skill as his bravado. He would incessantly tempt fellow players at side bets on virtually everything, typically in huckster style. He once bet anyone in the poker room that he could do "between two and three hundred push-ups." Everyone rushed to bet the skinny Polish guy. Once he got on the floor, they quickly realized he never said "between 200 and 300 push-ups." They quickly paid up! He ran for political office on several occasions, though never won and was quite the ladies man. He almost died in 1995 when he wrecked his motorcycle and completely crushed his face. The traffic investigator when he arrived on scene couldn't imagine anyone living through the accident but Bob managed to pulled through. In 1999, he proposed a Titanic themed casino on the Strip with a complete replica of the ship serving as the hotel, sadly the Las Vegas city council shot down the idea. There was also a very charitable side to Stupak with large donations particularly to the neighborhood surrounding the Stratosphere. To say it isn't the best part of town is an understatement and Bob wanted to help the residents. He employed many of them when the Strat first opened and built a community center and park in honor of his father which is a jewel in the middle of a pretty rough neighborhood.
Rest in peace, Bob. You made a legendary place in the history of Las Vegas and your legacy will never be forgotten!
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