Anyone who has spent time in Las Vegas has probably heard it before, and residents of Las Vegas hear the question all the time:
“Was Las Vegas better off when it was run by the mob?”
Those who answer “yes” often cite the free-flowing booze, comped shows, free parking and $1.99 buffets that locals used to enjoy at Las Vegas casinos during the mob days, from the mid-20th century through the 1980s.
The people who say that Las Vegas was better in those mob days, they miss the comps.
Former Review-Journal reporter and columnist Jane Ann Morrison
“The people who say that Las Vegas was better in those mob days, they miss the comps,” former Review-Journal reporter and columnist Jane Ann Morrison says in Part 1 of “Mobbed Up.” “Locals went to the hotels and were treated very nicely as locals … they felt like the town liked them.”
Was the city really better when organized crime had a stranglehold on its biggest business, its lifeblood? When the Las Vegas Strip was mobbed up, and crime families from all over the country had a tight grip on the flow of cash from many of its casinos?
As former Department of Justice Organized Crime Strike Force attorney Stan Hunterton points out, not all longtime residents pine for the days when organized crime syndicates were pulling strings at a number of Las Vegas casinos.
“It’s (an opinion) held by people who, first, were not killed by the mafia,” Hunterton states. “And second, didn’t have a family member who did.”
Part 1: ‘Our Religion’
On Oct. 11, 1979, Las Vegas residents who picked up the evening edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal were greeted with the headline “Con Suspect Killed in ‘Bloody Murder.’ ”
The victim of this ‘bloody murder’ was 48-year-old Jerry Lisner, whom the Review-Journal reported at the time was rumored to be “an FBI informant on organized crime.” Lisner’s body had been discovered by his wife, Jeani Lisner, floating in their backyard pool.
This 1979 murder is the starting point for the Review-Journal’s new podcast series, “Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas,” a true-crime series that will chronicle the rise and fall of the mob in Las Vegas over the course of 11 episodes.
Part 1 of this series, titled “Our Religion,” revisits the scene of the Lisner murder, an ivy-covered two-story home in a quiet Las Vegas neighborhood, and features a firsthand account of the crime from someone who was there when it happened.
Where and how to listen
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.