Bob Stupak, the Las Vegas gaming entrepreneur who defied his critics at every turn, died at Desert Springs Hospital today after a long battle with leukemia. He was 67.
Stupak has been hospitalized since Saturday, said Sandy Blumen, who has two children with Stupak. He died at 1:15 p.m. Friday.
Stupak, who staged numerous unsuccessful runs for local political office and is known for his colorful and sometimes controversial behavior, has kept a low profile in recent years as his health deteriorated.
Stupak first came to Las Vegas in the early 1970s and opened a restaurant, followed by "Bob Stupak’s World Famous Historic Gambling Museum & Casino." In 1979, he opened Vegas World.
But Stupak is perhaps best known for building the Stratosphere and the 1,149-foot-tall Stratosphere Tower on Las Vegas Boulevard near Main Street.
"Bob was an impresario, a ringmaster in the mold of the promoters who made Las Vegas the great town that it is,” said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. “His ingenuity got him into trouble sometimes, but that happens to folks who try to grab the brass ring.
"I’ll miss his impishness."
Stupak excelled in promoting himself and his enterprises and appeared to adhere to the axiom that even bad publicity is good publicity. His exploits made headlines over and over again.
Stupak was born April 6, 1942. He grew up in a Polish working-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
He made his first bet — a penny on the numbers — when he was eight. In the Army, he ran craps games in the barracks at Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Sill, Okla. He figured out he could also make money with something as simple as a raffle.
“I realized that people were prepared to gamble a little if they had a chance to win a lot,” he said in a 1989 interview. “I understood the principles of gambling and the greed factor, which everyone basically has.”
The best way to describe him, said College of Southern Nevada history professor Michael Green, "is as a 20th century version of P.T. Barnum. He was a visionary, and what he envisioned, he achieved.”
“He was a young man with a pocketful of money and he fell in love” with the city, said Ralph Denton, a longtime Southern Nevada lawyer who met Stupak in the early 1970s.
Stupak nearly died in 1995 after crashing his Harley-Davidson motorcycle while going more than 60 mph. His son, Nevada, who was a passenger, also was injured. The elder Stupak broke every bone in his face. Doctors didn’t expect him to live. But Stupak was a fighter and recovered.
Still, he was never quite the same and continued to struggle with his health over the years, Blumen said.
Review-Journal writer Alan Choate contributed to this report.
At Bob Stupak’s request, he will be cremated and there will be no funeral, a family spokeswoman said. The Stupak family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent to the Stupak Community Center in his memory.
The Stupak Trust
300 South Fourth St., Suite 701
Las Vegas, NV 89101View the slide show