Mob Driven Out of Las Vegas Resorts by Corporate Casino Ownership

Posted on: August 9, 2021, 02:42h. 

Last updated on: August 20, 2021, 05:47h.

Over the years, the Mob has been run out of Nevada casinos and probably won’t be able to get back in, according to former state officials interviewed for a recent podcast series.

Jeff German
Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German poses near the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. This resort is on the Las Vegas Strip where the mob-connected Aladdin once stood. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Organized crime’s deep infiltration into Las Vegas casinos began to erode in the 1960s in part because of two key factors — the Black Book and corporate casino ownership, according to season two of the “Mobbed Up” podcast series. The eight-part series ended this month. 

The series is produced in a partnership between the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Mob Museum in Las Vegas. Season two is hosted by Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German, who has covered organized crime in the state for more than 40 years. German previously worked for the Las Vegas Sun.

The Black Book, created by Nevada gaming regulators, is a list of suspected mobsters and others excluded from entering casinos in the state. Officially called the Excluded Person List, it was introduced in 1960 and has included such names as Nick Civella, who once led the Kansas City crime family, and former Chicago Outfit boss Sam Giancana.

‘Bumps Along the Road’

Another factor in driving out the Mob was the introduction in the late 1960s of the Nevada Corporate Gaming Act, the podcast noted. This act allowed corporations to own casinos without every shareholder having to be licensed, and paved the way for the Las Vegas Strip’s current roster of corporate resorts.

Decades earlier, organized crime figures were involved in stealing untaxed casino revenue and delivering it to Mob bosses in the Midwest. This illegal action is called “skimming.” It led to felony convictions that sent several Mafia leaders to prison.

On the “Mobbed Up” podcast, former US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Corporate Gaming Act “was the salvation of Las Vegas.”

“We’ve had a few bumps along the road. But generally speaking, the corporate gaming act saved us,” said Reid, who once served as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. In that role, he had a well-publicized run-in with Chicago oddsmaker Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. That incident was dramatized in the 1995 Las Vegas Mafia movie Casino. 

Richard Bryan, a former Nevada governor and US senator, said the Corporate Gaming Act put the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” on Nevada’s casino industry.

“These major corporations that have business interests all over the world are not going to get involved in any kind of skimming operations,”  Bryan said.

Mob Stigma

Former Nevada Gaming Commission member George Swarts said people who don’t like corporate casinos say that Las Vegas was “better when the Mob was running it.”

Swarts said that perception is inaccurate.

The corporate gamers don’t bury people in shallow graves when they misbehave,” he said on the podcast. “They deal with it in a legal and proper way.”

Reid indicated he would not take a bet on whether mobsters could work their way back into Nevada casinos.

“They are so clever,” he said.

Swarts said it would be difficult for underworld figures to return “because of all the transparencies involved and the stigma of having someone that’s involved with a Mob family.”

However, he noted that the Mob is still around, though not in the casinos.

“Now they’ve got the side rackets — drugs, prostitution, money laundering, loan sharking, all that kind of stuff,” he said.