When it comes to the mob’s influence on the Las Vegas gambling scene David Berman aka “Davie the Jew” is considered one of the pioneers. He and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel had operated the Flamingo Las Vegas.
Believe it or not David Berman was the son of a former rabbinical student. He was born in 1903 in Odessa, Ukraine but his family moved to the United States while he was just a young boy and settled in Ashley, North Dakota.
Life was far from easy in their new home; the weather was harsh and the land unyielding. Before long the family was forced to move to Sioux City, Iowa where young David transitioned into a criminal.
Berman was born to lead, but the only problem was who to lead. Before he was old enough to shave, he had turned a gang of teenagers into an effective shake-down ‘franchise’. Soon enough the group was running a couple of illegal distilleries under the watchful eye of their leader, David.
The boy even created his own bank-robbing crew and soon the local mob became interested in his talent. The Genovese crime family recruited him and sent him to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he proved that he was a valuable asset to it.
The thing is that Berman went to Minneapolis to run a bookmaking operation but the market was already ‘saturated’ by Kid Cann and Tommy Banks. He had to use every trick in the book to stay in business and of course violence was one of his options.
For this he procured the services of a bloodthirsty enforcer known as Israel “Ice Pick Willie” Alderman who rained terror on anyone who got in their way. Berman also recruited the then Minneapolis mayor Marvin L. Kline, whose influence ensured that he stayed ahead of the competition.
Defending his People
Berman may have been busy running illegal gambling operations but he never forgot his roots. This was especially true during the Nazi era when anti-Semitic groups were cropping up everywhere.
It is believed that he used his gang to run the pro-Nazi Silver Shirts out of Minneapolis. What’s more he tried to enlist into the U.S. military but he had already earned himself quite a rap sheet and the men in uniform were not about to welcome him.
Not one to give up easily, David crossed the border into Canada where he joined its army and was part of the 18th Armored Car Regiment that fought in the European Theatre of World War II.
Having returned home victorious, Berman was probably looking forward to quietly enjoying the fruits of his illegal activities. But this was not to be; Hubert Humphrey was elected mayor of Minneapolis and there was no love lost between him and the mob.
Business was getting worse by the day and the prospect of incarceration hang over his head. With no respite in sight, Berman moved his operations to Las Vegas where the Strip was just beginning to take shape.
Backed by the Genovese crime family with which he had maintained ties he began to build a name for himself in the casino circles alongside Moe Sedway. Suddenly, Bugsy Siegel the mobster who was in charge of the Flamingo began to act crazy. He was promptly assassinated and Berman and Sedway took his place.
David Berman had been at the helm of the Flamingo for roughly ten years when he developed polyps in his colon. He died during the surgery that was meant to cure him. He was 54 years old and was survived by his wife and daughter.