Las Vegas and the Mob – Part Two

In Part One we discussed how the mob had worked their way into Las Vegas using a number of surreptitious means.  Gangsters such as Meyer Lansky and ‘Bugsy’ Siegel built The Flamingo Casino using money obtained from sources such as the Teamsters Union and sympathetic Mormon banks.

Following the federal crackdown in the mid-1950s and then the arrival of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas, the influence of the mob began to diminish from what they would have regarded as their heyday.  However many still remained, unable to let go of their profitable legal casino games and equally profitable but illegal ‘skimming’ scams and sportsbooks.

So the mob had become firmly entrenched by the time the Nevada authorities decided to instigate an era of respectability with the introduction of the Corporate Gaming Act in 1969.  While the Act didn’t specifically target the mobsters, it allowed corporations to become licensed casino owners.  This allowed non-mob connected,large companies to more easily join the Las Vegas party with the hope that they would invest and dilute the influence of the mafia.

Las vegas strip 1960

The Las Vegas Strip in the 1960s

It partly worked but the mob soon reorganised their businesses and operations to take the new laws into account.  Front men and companies were brought in to become license holders while the skimming and the profiteering continued behind the scenes.

What eventually happened was that the local and federal authorities began to take such a close interest in what were thought to be the mob-run casinos that it became more and more difficult for the gangsters to operate.  Gradually the criminals were arrested or they decided to sell up to legitimate corporations and leave Las Vegas, leaving the casino businessto someone else.

By the mid-1980s this casino city was largely free of organised crime.  There is some misplaced nostalgia regarding the days when the mob ‘ran’ Las Vegas; old-timers regard it as a period when there was no crime on the streets and everything was cheaper (before the big corporations moved in and began to invest).  Common sense will tell you though that a city without organised crime is more desirable then a one with it.

Las Vegas is a clean city now, although there is some suspicion that the strip clubs and pole-dancing venues still operate money laundering schemes.

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