Vegas. The City of Sin. America’s Playground. We all know the legend of Las Vegas and how many see it as the city of second chances. It lacks soul and character, and it’s basically just a neon monument to consumerism, but there’s no doubting that it’s impressive. But, have you ever wondered how we got from the Vegas that was to the Vegas that is?
A lot of it was down to the influence of the mob. Some say that the mob still has roots in Vegas today, but this is unsubstantiated. What we do know is that they certainly built this empire and helped it to become what it is today. Let’s look a little further into this story, and find out how Las Vegas was built by casino mobsters.
We go all the way back to 1946, where criminals were flourishing in post-war America. Though lots of gangsters were involved in the inner workings of hotels and casinos, none actually owned any. But all this changed when Bugsy Siegel, and his friend Meyer Lansky, made a decision to build The Flamingo. this became the first mob-owned casino and set in motion a movement in Vegas.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though, as it turned out Bugsy was skimming off the top. This led to infighting and the rest of the mob distrusting Siegel. Eventually, he was gunned down at his home in 1947, but his impact on Vegas would endure.
Looking at the example Siegel had set with The Flamingo, a lot of gangsters saw Vegas as a pot of money. And, as such, many other crime hotels began to spring up all over the Vegas strip. Places such as the Sahara, the Sands, and The Riviera. These were frequented by stars including Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby and showed the grip the mob had on Vegas in the early years.
Eventually, the strength of mob activity did not go unnoticed by the powers that be. It didn’t take long for the mob involvement to catch the attention of the authorities. And this led, indirectly, to the casino and gambling regulations we have today.
It also led to state gambling regulators enforcing what was known as their List of Excluded Persons. This was a list of people who were not allowed in casinos, in order to curb the mob influence. But, it turned out that reclusive businessman Howard Hughes was the one who really got the ball rolling. He bought some of the casinos from the mob and set about cleaning them up. It’s fair to say Hughes helped the transition between the mob-run Las Vegas, and the Las Vegas we have today.