‘Mobbed Up’ Podcast Explores Celebrity Feud to Control Las Vegas Casino

Posted on: June 19, 2021, 12:39h. 

Last updated on: June 20, 2021, 08:35h.

An eight-part podcast on the Mob’s influence in Las Vegas begins Monday. The series examines the battle between celebrities Wayne Newton and Johnny Carson to control a Las Vegas Strip casino. It also explores labor leader Jimmy Hoffa’s life and 1975 disappearance.

Planet Hollywood
Colorful lights illuminate an entrance to Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas Strip. This once was the site of the Aladdin Casino. (Image: Larry Henry)

Titled Mobbed Up: The Fight For Las Vegas, the podcast is a collaboration between the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Mob Museum. Two episodes air Monday. A new episode will be available weekly until the season ends Aug. 2. 

This is the second season for the “Mobbed Up” podcast. The first season aired last year. It focused on the Mob era dramatized in the 1995 Las Vegas Mafia movie Casino, starring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci.

For this season’s series, Jeff German, a Review-Journal investigative reporter, serves as host. 

German is a longtime Nevada reporter who previously worked at the Las Vegas Sun. He is the author of the 2001 book Murder in Sin City: The Death of a Las Vegas Casino Boss. German’s book explores the 1998 death of Ted Binion, whose family once owned the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas.

‘A Tough Time’

The upcoming season of “Mobbed Up” spotlights longtime Las Vegas singer Wayne Newton and his feud with former NBC talk show host Johnny Carson. Known as “Mr. Las Vegas,” Newton is 79. Carson died in 2005 at age 79.

The dispute arose over an attempt by each to purchase the Aladdin Casino in 1980. The resort stood on the east side of the Strip, where the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino now is located. Caesars Entertainment owns the Planet Hollywood property.

During the 1970s, the Aladdin was linked to Detroit mobsters. It was one of several hotel-casinos in Las Vegas with Mafia connections.

In 1980, NBC alleged Newton had ties to the Gambino crime family. Newton denied the allegations. Nevada gaming regulators did not uncover evidence of connections, according to the Review-Journal.

During this time, Newton and former Riviera Casino executive Ed Torres purchased the Aladdin for $85 million. Torres later bought Newton out, the Las Vegas Sun reported. 

Newton won a $19 million defamation judgment in a lawsuit against NBC, according to the Sun. On appeal, a court determined the NBC report was inaccurate, but done without malice, a key standard in such lawsuits. Newton received no cash settlement.

It was not about money. It was about clearing my name,” Newton said. “And I did.”

In a recent Review-Journal story about the podcast, German said this period was “a tough time for Newton.”

“He had to deal with death threats, scrutiny from gaming regulators, and national news reports raising questions about contacts he made with Mob figures,” German said.

Hoffa’s Las Vegas Influence

Hoffa, a former Teamsters Union president, disappeared in July 1975 from the parking lot of a suburban Detroit restaurant where he was supposed to have met with Mafia leaders to resolve differences. No one has been held criminally responsible in the case.

Decades ago, Hoffa helped secure union pension funds to construct Caesars Palace and other Las Vegas casinos. 

The whereabouts of Hoffa’s remains has been a longstanding mystery. Recently, investigative journalist and author Dan E. Moldea pinpointed a location in New Jersey where the remains might have been buried in a 55-gallon drum. Moldea, author of the 1978 book The Hoffa Wars, is considered the nation’s top expert on Hoffa.

The site that Moldea pointed out is at a landfill once controlled by the Genovese crime family. Moldea and Fox News anchor Eric Shawn have asked federal authorities to conduct a dig at the site.