Prior to his decades-long career in Congress, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid squared off with the mob as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.
Reid was appointed to the Gaming Commission, one of two state bodies set up to regulate the gaming industry, in 1977 by then-Nevada governor Mike O’Callaghan. By this point in his career, Reid had held a variety of titles in Nevada, including city attorney, state assemblyman and lieutenant governor.
“I thought I knew everything about gaming,” Reid stated in the fall of 2019. “I didn’t realize until later that I knew very little about gaming and what was going on in Nevada.”
Over the next four years, Reid would find himself battling bribery accusations, working with the FBI on a sting operation and going toe-to-toe at licensing hearings with Chicago mob associate Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal.
One of Reid’s biggest challenges during his time on the Gaming Commission came In 1979, when the FBI released transcripts of electronic surveillance recordings in which reputed Kansas City mob associates claimed to be receiving information from Reid. Though he ultimately would be cleared of wrongdoing by a five-month Nevada Gaming Control Board investigation, this incident nearly caused Reid to resign.
On the tapes, the reputed mobsters refer to Reid using the codenames “Cleanface” and “Mr. Clean.”
“They had names for everybody,” Reid recalls. “I was Mr. Clean.”
I didn’t realize until later that I knew very little about gaming and what was going on in Nevada.
former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Mobbed Up, Part Six: “Cleanface”
The sixth installment of Mobbed Up, available now, recounts Sen. Reid’s years on the Nevada Gaming Commission, which would prove pivotal in the history of gaming regulation.
“The mob would have destroyed Las Vegas,” Reid states on the episode. “The only question, not if, but when it would be destroyed. So we stepped in.”
Where and how to listen
“Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas” is available for free on all major podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more.
Search for “Mobbed Up” on your preferred mobile podcasting app and tap “subscribe” or “follow,” or click here to listen to the series on the Review-Journal website.