Vegas Casinos and the Mafia – Was Sin City Better When the Mob Ran It?

Photo by Carol M. Highsmith. – Public Domain.

The Mafia in Sin City

When it comes to Las Vegas, there’s no denying that the city has a long and interesting history. It’s a place that has always been associated with glamour, excitement, and of course, gambling. However, in the early days of Las Vegas, there was something more sinister lurking behind the scenes: the mafia. For many years, organized crime was able to flourish in Sin City, and it’s often said that the city was better when the mob ran it. But is this really the case?

The Golden Age of Vegas Casinos

In the 1040s, 50s and 60s, Las Vegas was a city of dreams. The bright lights, the showgirls, and of course, the casinos, made it a place that was unlike any other. During this time, the city experienced a boom in tourism, with visitors flocking from all over the world to experience the glitz and glamour of Sin City. It was during this era that many of the city’s most iconic casinos were built, including the Flamingo, the Sands, and the Riviera.

The Influence of Organized Crime

While the average tourist may have been blissfully unaware, organized crime played a significant role in the development of Las Vegas. The mafia had a firm grip on the city’s casinos, and many of the most successful establishments were controlled by mobsters. This meant that the casinos were often run in a less-than-legal way, with money laundering, extortion, and other criminal activities taking place behind the scenes.

Mobsters and their Casinos

One of the most famous mobsters to have a hand in Las Vegas was Bugsy Siegel. Siegel was a key figure in the development of the Flamingo casino, which he built with the help of his associates in the mafia. The Flamingo opened in 1946 and was one of the most luxurious and extravagant casinos in the city, and it set the standard for the glitzy and glamorous establishments that would follow.

The Fall of the Mafia in Vegas

While the mafia may have had a grip on Las Vegas for many years, their reign was not to last forever. In the 1970s, the FBI launched a major crackdown on organized crime, which led to the downfall of many of the city’s most notorious mobsters. This, coupled with the increasing regulation of the casino industry, meant that the power of organized crime in Las Vegas began to wane.

Behind the Scenes of the Classic Casino Movie

Casino was released in 1995 and starred Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci, among others. Set in the 1970s, the movie tells the story of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, a professional gambler who is hired to run the Tangiers casino. It also depicts how the mob controlled the casinos in Las Vegas during that era.

How Scorsese Brought the Mob to Life in Las Vegas

Martin Scorsese is known for his ability to bring complex characters to life on the big screen, and he did not disappoint with Casino. He managed to capture the essence of the mob’s involvement in Las Vegas casinos, and the movie’s actors brought their characters to life in a way that is both captivating and chilling.

One of the standout performances in the movie was by Joe Pesci, who played Nicky Santoro, a mob enforcer sent to Las Vegas to keep an eye on Rothstein. Pesci’s portrayal of the character was so realistic that it earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sharon Stone was also praised for her performance as Ginger McKenna, Rothstein’s love interest who has a tragic end.

Modern-day Casinos: Good or Bad?

Today, Las Vegas is a very different place to the city of the past. While the casinos remain a major attraction, they are now run in a much more regulated and legal way. This has led to a safer and more reliable experience for visitors, but it has also meant that some of the excitement and glamour of the city has been lost.

The Legacy of the Mob in Sin City

Despite the fact that organized crime is no longer a major presence in Las Vegas, the legacy of the mafia can still be seen in the city today. A small number of the casinos that were built during the golden age of Las Vegas remain standing, and they continue to attract tourists from all over the world. And while the city may be safer and more regulated these days, it’s impossible to deny the impact that the mafia had on the development of Sin City.

Was Sin City better back then?

So, was Sin City really better when the mafia ran it? It’s a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, the mafia brought a level of excitement and danger to Las Vegas that is hard to replicate in the modern era. But on the other hand, one could argue that the illegal and often violent activities of organized crime made the city a less safe and reliable place to visit. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to decide which version of Las Vegas they prefer. But there’s no denying that the city’s history with the mafia is one that will continue to fascinate and intrigue for many years to come.

The Venetian Las Vegas Casino Review