VEGAS MYTHS RE-BUSTED: Howard Hughes Ran the Mob Out of Town

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Posted on: January 26, 2024, 08:17h. 

Last updated on: January 25, 2024, 05:02h.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: “Vegas Myths Busted” publishes each Monday, pinch a prize Flashback Friday edition. Today’s introduction successful our ongoing bid primitively ran connected Sept.  18, 2023.


In 1967, billionaire Howard Hughes purchased nan Desert Inn from Cleveland syndicate personnel Moe Dalitz just to debar being evicted from his penthouse suite. Hughes recovered that he liked owning Las Vegas casino resorts. So he added nan Sands, Frontier, Silver Slipper, Castaways, and Landmark to his caller collection.

Howard HughesDashing and provocative billionaire Howard Hughes, above, believed to beryllium nan richest man successful America, was nan Elon Musk of nan 1940s. (Image: Turner Classic Movies)

And this is what drove nan mafia retired of Las Vegas. Except, not really.

What drove nan mafia retired was mostly nan Nevada Corporate Gaming Act of 1969.

This transformative legislation, an amendment to nan Gaming Control Act, allowed corporations to ain casinos by limiting licensure requirements to a fewer cardinal executives. Before its passage, each azygous owner/shareholder had to beryllium licensed.

On nan 2021 podcast “Mobbed Up,” erstwhile US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called nan Corporate Gaming Act “The salvation of Las Vegas.”

We’ve had a fewer bumps on nan road, but, mostly speaking, nan firm gaming enactment saved us,” Reid said soon earlier his death.

By nan way, Reid erstwhile served arsenic president of nan Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC), and successful that role, he had a well-publicized run-in pinch Chicago oddsmaker Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal.

You mightiness retrieve that incident from its dramatization successful head Martin Scorsese’s 1995 movie, Casino, a screen-shot of which appears below.

Robert De Niro, Oscar GoodmanRobert De Niro, playing nan Lefty Rosenthal-based Ace Rothstein, argues pinch a legislator played by Dick Smothers successful nan movie Casino. In an absorbing prime of casting, Rothstein’s lawyer (at right) is portrayed by Rosenthal’s attorney, Oscar Goodman, who served arsenic nan politician of Las Vegas from 1999 to 2011. (Image: Universal Pictures)

Hughes Only Helped 

Hughes helped diminish mob ownership by giving nan bad guys six less Las Vegas Strip casinos to ain for 4 years.

But, arsenic Las Vegas Mob Museum VP of exhibits and Howard Hughes biographer Geoff Schumacher told Nevada Public Radio successful 2016, “There is simply a batch of grounds that moreover aft he bought a bid of casinos connected nan Las Vegas Strip, that nan mob was still skimming from nan very casinos he had bought from them.”

In addition, mob ownership of competing casinos continued unabated while nan erstwhile movie workplace and hose mogul played Las Vegas hotelier.

Caesars Palace had conscionable opened successful 1966 acknowledgment to a building indebtedness from nan mob-connected Teamsters Union pension fund. When its owner, Jay Sarno, sold nan spot 3 years later amid a national investigation into its financing, it went to Clifford and Stewart Perlman. According to nan Mob Museum, they secretly utilized Miami mobster Meyer Lansky arsenic a hidden investor.

Hughes tried to acquisition Caesars Palace on pinch nan Stardust and Riviera, but ne'er closed those deals because of unit from nan national authorities to halt his gaming purchases.

The twelvemonth Hughes died, 1976, was besides nan twelvemonth that Lefty Rosenthal took complete nan skim — stolen untaxed casino gross — astatine nan Stardust, Fremont, Marina, and Hacienda casinos.

So no, Hughes didn’t tally nan mob retired of town.

Nevada's Black BookThe Nevada Black Book contains gambling’s astir ill-reputed cheats of nan past 4 decades. This was mobster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro’s entry. (Image: cardplayer.com)

Throwing nan Book astatine ‘Em

Just arsenic influential arsenic Hughes was nan cumulative effect of nan alleged “Black Book.” Created by Nevada gaming regulators successful 1960, it’s nan celebrated database of suspected mobsters, cheats, and others excluded from entering casinos successful nan state.

Officially called nan Excluded Person List, it has included specified names arsenic Nick Civella, who erstwhile led nan Kansas City crime family, erstwhile Chicago outfit leader Sam Giancana, and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, a mob enforcer believed to beryllium responsible for astir 2 twelve murders.

By nan ’80s, Nevada Governor Michael O’Callaghan helped extricate nan residual mob power from casino ownership. He did truthful by appointing members to nan Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) who would beryllium much resistant to their bribes and threats.

But nan mafia is really still successful Las Vegas. Though it nary longer owns casinos, it tin beryllium recovered infiltrating broadside rackets specified arsenic forbidden drugs, prostitution, money laundering, and indebtedness sharking.

Look for “Vegas Myths Busted” each Monday on Casino.org. To publication antecedently busted Vegas myths, sojourn VegasMythsBusted.com. Got a proposal for a Vegas story that needs busting? Email [email protected].

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