Does the Mafia Still Control Casinos in Las Vegas? The Answer is Here


The history of Las Vegas is deeply intertwined with the history of organized crime in America, specifically the Italian-American Mafia. The Mafia’s involvement in Las Vegas began in the 1940s and continued through the 1980s, with Mafia families from across the country having a stake in the city’s burgeoning casino industry.

In the 1940s, Las Vegas was a small desert town with a population of around 8,000. However, the legalization of gambling in Nevada in 1931 laid the groundwork for Las Vegas to become a gambling mecca. The Mafia, looking for legitimate businesses to launder their money, saw an opportunity in Las Vegas.

One of the earliest known mobsters to invest in Las Vegas was New York crime family boss Frank Costello, who funded the construction of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino. However, the project was overseen by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, a mobster with the Luciano crime family. The Flamingo opened in 1946, but Siegel was killed in 1947 allegedly for mismanaging the project’s budget.

Despite Siegel’s failure, other mobsters saw the potential in Las Vegas. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Mafia families from across the country invested in Las Vegas casinos, using them to launder their illegal profits from activities like drug trafficking and loan sharking.

The Stardust, Desert Inn, Sands, and the Riviera were among the many casinos controlled by the mob. Chicago Outfit bosses such as Tony “The Ant” Spilotro had significant influence in Las Vegas during this era.

The Mafia’s grip on Las Vegas began to loosen in the 1970s and 1980s, largely due to increased scrutiny from law enforcement. The FBI and Nevada’s Gaming Control Board began cracking down on mob influence in casinos, leading to the eventual expulsion of the Mafia from Las Vegas.

The purchase of several Las Vegas casinos by billionaire Howard Hughes in the 1960s also marked a turning point. Hughes’ involvement helped to start a trend of corporate ownership of casinos, which further marginalized the Mafia.

By the 1980s, with increased regulation and corporate involvement, most of the Mafia-controlled casinos had been sold to legitimate businesses. The last mob-connected casino in Las Vegas, the Stardust, was sold in 1985.

The Mafia’s involvement in Las Vegas has been immortalized in movies like “Casino,” which is based on real events and people. Today, Las Vegas’ reputation as a gambling mecca remains, but its ties to organized crime have largely faded into the background.

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Isaac covers the gambling industry and works hard to cover everything from the Vegas scene to various gaming options available through the internet.


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