Updated June 9, 2020 - 8:24 am
While the Flamingo was not the first casino to open on what we now call the Strip, it was going to be different.
The project, started by Hollywood Reporter founder Billy Wilkerson before being taken over by notorious mob figure Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, would set a new standard for hotel-casinos in Las Vegas.
Under Siegel’s stewardship, the Flamingo opened in Las Vegas on Dec. 26, 1946. Although Siegel himself would die in a hail of gunfire months later, the Flamingo would herald a decadeslong era of expansion along the Strip.
More than a dozen hotel-casinos would add their signs and marquees to Las Vegas Boulevard in the next couple of decades, transforming the Strip into a bona fide tourist destination.
This transformation, according to UNLV associate professor of history Michael Green, was made possible by the mob.
If you ever want to define the term ‘symbiotic relationship,’ try the growth of Las Vegas and organized crime.
Michael Green, UNLV Associate Professor of History
“If you ever want to define the term ‘symbiotic relationship,’ try the growth of Las Vegas and organized crime,” Green says. “I don’t think we have one without the other, at least at the rate Las Vegas grew.”
Within the criminal underworld, it was decided that Las Vegas would be an “open city.” No single crime family or syndicate would control the territory. Everyone could get in on the action, as long as they did not interfere with the operations of other syndicates.
‘Mobbed Up — Part 4’: “Open City”
The fourth installment of “Mobbed Up” delves into the history of organized crime in Las Vegas from the 1930s up to the 1960s.
“The mob had been, of course, heavily integrated in the casino industry here from day one,” former Nevada Gov. Robert List points out in a clip used in the episode, from an interview with the Oral History Research Center at the UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives.
The mob had been, of course, heavily integrated in the casino industry here from day one.
Bob List, Former Nevada Governor
The first three episodes of the series have introduced listeners to a former mob associate named Frank Cullotta and his childhood friend, reputed mob enforcer Tony Spilotro. The fourth episode contextualizes their eventual arrival in Las Vegas in the 1970s.
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.