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The Mafia and Vegas

mafia-las-vegasThe story of the formation of Las Vegas as a gambling haven has already been told here, but the death of Bugsy Siegel did not mark the end of organised crime’s control of the city in fact it marked the beginning. As the New York mob began pumping more and more union workers money into the city in order to build more casinos, so the Chicago mob began to open its eyes at the huge amounts of money being brought into their coffers by their use of the skim.

The skim is a racket that was made famous in the movie Casino, starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. The skim is when a mob accomplice enters into the vaults of the casino and takes out a certain amount of cash before it can be declared as earnings of the casino to the IRS. He would then take it back to wherever his bosses were sitting waiting for it. This meant that the mob was gaining money for doing nothing. All of the initial cash was put up by union officials using the pension funds of their employees and all they had to do was sit back and enjoy the piles of money that were brought directly to them.

Under Sam Giancana in the 1960s the Chicago “outfit” also began investing in hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. Allegedly there was a deal made between the different mob families that split control over the strip in a way that satisfied all concerned. This was right about the time that Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack were playing at the hottest Las Vegas spots and while the mob were looking at how to get Kennedy elected president.

As long as mob control of the Las Vegas strip was kept under wraps local authorities didn’t cause any problems but the moment when bodies started showing up around Las Vegas a crackdown on mob influence began. It was Tony Spilotro who really brought the heat down on the Las Vegas mob with his flamboyant style and flagrant disregard for authority. Although that was not the end of the mob influence in the town the writing was already on the wall when corporations, starting with Howard Hughes, began buying up both casinos and huge plots of land on which to build bigger, better and brighter casinos. Though the hand of organised crime has been taken out of Las Vegas their legacy remains with casino dealers still saying “it was better when the mob were running things”

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