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10 Gangsters Who Helped to Mold the History of Las Vegas

By Edited May 11, 2015 3 6

LV was started by Mormons but it was the Mafia guys who caused Vegas to grow at such a rapid place and become the Neon Jungle that it is today. There have been countless Mob members who have had a tremendous impact on Vegas. I could not begin to name all of the Gangsters who had an intricate part of its history, but I can give you 10 of them here. Here are 10 Gangsters who helped mold the history of Las Vegas.

1. Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel

Bugsy Siegel is the most famous Gangster in L.Vegas History. He did have a huge impact on the history and growth of Las Vegas, but a lot of things associated with Bugsy are urban myths. The truth is that Bugsy Siegel had a major attitude problem and this anger problem of his would eventually get him killed.

Bugsy Siegel is credited as the man who had the vision to build the Flamingo Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip and was able to single-handedly shaped the future of Las Vegas. This is wrong. Bugsy Siegel was forced to go to Vegas and represent the Mafia. Bugsy had to negotiate and force his way into the Flamingo property. The Flamingo would have been built whether Bugsy and the mafia every got involved or not.

Bugsy was pissed off that he had to be in Vegas handling the operation there with the Flamingo as opposed to living full-time in Beverly Hills, California where he wanted to. Bugsy tried to make the best of the situation by creating the most extravagant Hotel of its time. Bugsy ordered the best of everything for the Flamingo. There was a lot of money being wasted on the Flamingo. The Mafia wanted an accounting of the money spent. The accounting obviously did not go right because Bugsy Siegel was murdered at his Beverly Hills Home in 1947. Bugsy was killed only 6 months after the Flamingo Hotel and Casino opened for business. The killer of Bugsy was never found but it is suspected that it was a Mafia hit.

2. Meyer Lansky

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Meyer Lansky was one of the most powerful gangsters ever. If it was not for Meyer Lansky then Bugsy never would have been sent back to Vegas. Bugsy also probably would not have gotten killed if it was not for Meyer Lansky. Supposedly Bugsy convinced Meyer Lansky and the Mafia to invest into the Flamingo. Of course Bugsy was probably went there first out of desperation since he was a struggling Gangster who wanted to keep his lavish lifestyle up.

20 Minutes after Bugsy was killed 3 associated of Meyer Lansky walked into the Flamingo in Las Vegas and seized control of it. Meyer Lansky then kept part ownership of the Property until the late 60’s. Meyer Lansky was definitely one of the most influential people in Las Vegas history. Meyer Lansky died of natural causes in 1983.

3. Moe Sedway

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Moe Sedway ran the El Cortez Casino in Downtown Las Vegas. Moe Sedway was a close and direct associate with Meyer Lansky. Sedway was on of the Lansky associates that seized control of the Flamingo 20 minutes after Bugsy Siegel was shot and killed.

4. Frank Lawrence "Lefty" Rosenthal

Lefty Rosenthal was a real Gangster who had balls of steel. In the movie Casino the main character as played by Robert De Niro was based on the real life of Lefty Rosenthal. In the movie Casino the character was called Sam "Ace" Rothstein and Sam "Ace" Rothstein was based directly on the real Mafia Gangster Lefty Rosenthal.

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5. Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro

Another character in the movie Casino was Nicky Santoro. Nicky Santoro was the character played by Joe Pesci. The Nicky Santoro character was based on Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro. Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro grew up as a child with Lefty Rosenthal and they were united once again in Las Vegas in later years as they seized control and power in Las Vegas. Many of the characters in the movie Casino were all based on real life Mafioso.

6. Frank Cullotta

Frank Cullotta was friends and associates with Tony Spilotro. He also helped as an adviser on the movie Casino. Frank Cullotta is still alive.

7. Joseph Aiuppa

Joseph Aiuppa spent most of his time in Chicago but he wielded heavy control over Las Vegas. One of the coolest stories is that the Feds could never get enough information to arrest Joseph Aiuppa. One day when they raided a property they found 563 frozen doves. These birds were enough to send Joseph Aiuppa to jail for 3 months because you could only transport 24 doves at a time across State Lines. The Feds were able to but Aiuppa because he violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

8. Carl DeLuna

Carl DeLuna had his house raided and the Feds found numerous notes that he had written in code. The Feds easily broke the codes and with other evidence, was able to prove that the mafia had control over multiple casinos in Las Vegas. If not for Carl DeLuna then the Mafia may have been able to keep control of the Casinos for many more years.

9. Nicholas Civella

Nicholas Civella was in charge of and organizing the skimming that took place at mafia controlled casinos.

10. Oscar Goodman

Oscar Goodman is not a Gangster but he had to be added to this list. Oscar Goodman is an attorney who used to represent Gangsters in court. Eventually Oscar Goodman became Mayor of Las Vegas and the after he left office because of term limits his wife became mayor. Oscar Goodman has done a lot of good for Las Vegas over the years and continues to do a lot of positive things. He can be a very polarizing figure and not everybody likes him, but there is no doubt that Oscar Goodman heavily shaped the past, present, and future history of Las Vegas.

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Mar 14, 2013 7:09pm
Interesting title, very little information
Mar 14, 2013 7:44pm
Nice piece of history. Whatever happened to Carl de Luna? Did the mob ice him for having such easily broken codes that exposed the Mafia's control over Vegas or is he still alive and kicking?
Mar 17, 2013 3:37pm
didn't the corleones have a big hand in Vegas? Just kidding. The mafia is interesting to read about. They definitely had many fingers in the pies of Las Vegas and I suspect still do, don't they?
Apr 28, 2013 9:56pm
The Stardust hotel was the last of the mafias money and power in Vegas. The are still some that try but nothing like the old days.
Mar 27, 2013 3:40am
For someone that have watched most of the gangsta movies that were made out there this is an interesting post! Nice job!
Apr 27, 2013 11:29pm
Bugsy earn his name due to his temper way before building the Flamingo. When he was sent to Vegas it was to collect and watch over a smaller casino. His vision was more then a casino it was a resort and the name came from his love affair interest Virginia Hill who is believe to have miss manage the money. There are many rumors to Bugsy death but Gonzo is right with in minutes after Bugsy death Sedway was already taking control of the flamingo. Luck or knowledge?
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