Las Vegas Mafia

In the 1940’s Las Vegas and the Mafia were synonymous. The haven of legalised gambling caught the eye of one of the smartest mob members, Meyer Lansky. He together with partner, Lucky Luciano, are credited with the development and spread of organised crime in the States.

Up until the end of the Second World War, the Mafia were too busy building an empire in Cuba, where the corrupt Batista regime welcomed them with open arms. It was not long however before Fidel Castro initiated a revolution and kicked everyone out of the party.

The Mob had plenty of money garnered from its heady days in Havana but had to find another soft target to operate in, and Las Vegas was just the place.

As early as 1941 Lansky had ordered Bugsy Siegel to send his henchman, Moe Sedway to Vegas to check out the potential, but Siegel was not convinced and continued to live it up as a Hollywood playboy.

Lansky kept pushing, and after the war Siegel seemed to see the potential that was Las Vegas, and he, together with other top Mobsters, invested over $6 million in The Flamingo. Things went awry for Siegel, and he ended up with a couple of bullets in his head.

Ironically after Siegel’s death The Flamingo started to show a healthy profit, and it was then open season for the Mob. They streamed into Las Vegas in their droves, and notwithstanding the effort made by the Nevada authorities to keep them out, for all intents and purposes the crime syndicate literally took over.

  • The Flamingo and Thunderbird were Meyer Lansky’s babies and he had shares in several other casinos.
  • The Sands was owned by Lansky, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis and Doc Stracher. Frank Sinatra too had a 9% share in The Sands, but at the time, it was reported that the Mob did not want him involved in their criminal activities, they only wanted a guarantee that he would perform at The Sands each night. With old blue eyes singing, the Hotel was reputedly always filled to capacity!
  • The Desert Inn belonged to Moe Dalitz of the Chicago Mafia.
  • The Sahara and Riviera were the property of the Dons of Chicago – the Fischetti Brothers, Sam Giancana and Tony Accardo.
  • The Dunes was run and owned by the New England Mafia Boss – Raymond Patriarca.
  • The Tropicana became Frank Costello and Dandy Phil Kastell’s signature casino.
  • Caesars Palace, once jokingly referred to as “Early Sicilian, not Ancient Roman”, had, in all probability, one of the more interesting investors. Not only did Accardo, Giancana and Patriarca own it, but Jimmy Hoffa and The Teamsters Union Pension Fund had more than $10 million sunk into the Palace.

For a while in the 1960’s the Mob’s hold on Las Vegas was severely threatened by billionaire, Howard Hughes. He began buying up half of the city, and the Mafia soon pulled out of Las Vegas. When Hughes did not realise the profit he had anticipated, he pulled out of Sin City having lost several million dollars. With Hughes out of the way, the Mafia returned.

In the 1980’s the FBI eventually got on top of the problem and several kingpins were arrested. All casino-hotels were reportedly ‘sanitised’ and handed over to legitimate investors, but for over forty years the Mafia had ruled Las Vegas with an iron fist, and with impunity! To this day rumours abound that the Mafia are still well entrenched in Las Vegas!