With capital borrowed from the Teamster Union Pension Fund, the American Mafia built many of the first hotels and casinos on “The Strip.” These new desert meccas were the perfect places for the Mob to make and launder cash. Much to the joy of the eastern crime bosses, the casinos flourished and the Mob was able to skim large sums of money while still showing significant profits.
To escape the attention of law enforcement, the Mafia did everything it could to not taint the image of Las Vegas. However, in the late 1960s, the Feds cracked down on the Mafia, and while they no longer had free rein, their influence and involvement in Sin City still continued to grow.
So who finally ran the Mob out of Las Vegas? Believe it or not, it wasn’t the Feds. It was Wall Street. The amounts of money investors were willing to put into Las Vegas far exceeded what the Mob was illegally pulling out. It was an offer even the biggest “don” couldn’t refuse. This was a perfect way for the aging Mob bosses to sell out and retire. Enter Wall Street, exit the Mob.
Here are a few of the Strip’s hotels with “wise guy” roots…
Desert Inn Casino
Opened in 1950, the Desert Inn was managed by Moe Dalitz and his Cleveland Mayfield Road Gang, which included notorious mobsters Morris Kleinman, Sam Tucker and Lou Rothkopf.
Opened in 1955, the Dunes was owned by Major Riddle, of Chicago Mafia fame, and Mob attorney Morris Shenker. Shenker represented mobsters in St. Louis and Kansas City. Ray Patriarca, of the New England Mafia, also was a part owner.
Opened on December 26, 1946, the Flamingo was operated by the legendary mobster Bugsy Siegel until he was killed in a “hit” ordered by the New York Mob in June 1947. The Flamingo was purchased in 1971 by the Hilton Corporation, who quickly tore down the “Bugsy Bungalow,” a fortified cottage with three-inch thick walls. In 1997, Hilton celebrated the 50th anniversary of the hotel’s opening without a single mention of Bugsy.
Opened in the 1960s, the casino was owned by Doc Stacher, a reputed New York mobster. This Vegas icon served as the home base for the legendary “Rat Pack.” In fact, Sinatra owned part of the Sands in the 1960s. In 1967, the hotel was purchased by billionaire Howard Hughes.