When Lucky Luciano organized the first Commission of the American Mafia, the cities with representation were all large, heavily invested in the riches from Prohibition, and had a ready delivery system for the booze that came in, usually along waterways and docks controlled by gangs.
Detroit, Buffalo, and Cleveland (although each currently seeing a decline in jobs and population) were heavily populated and had numbers rackets, union infiltration, loan sharking operations, and cargo hijacking on the docks that provided additional income to the families. Smaller cities were less profitable to manage, although not necessarily any less tough or less corrupt.
The Reno connection was more important for individual gang members in the 1920’s and 1930’s and it wasn’t until later that the Chicago Outfit, the Detroit Partnership, and the New York Mob enjoyed a piece of the gambling in Reno. In the 1920s, Reno had its own Mob, a handful of men who controlled the gaming, speakeasies, prostitution (which was legal), loan sharking, and may have had a hand in opium and heroin distribution.
George Wingfield was the original architect of Reno’s banking services and owned a piece of a dozen casinos in town, even before Nevada legalized open-gaming. And it was George and Bill Graham who made sure the gaming bill passed in 1931 by showering their legislators with campaign contributions. The new book, Mob City: Reno Connection reveals the power the small town Mob had over Reno and how the city grew into the “Biggest Little City in the World.”
Mob City is a rewritten and updated version of The Roots of Reno, but includes a shorter verse on Goldfield and Tonopah before taking the reader to Reno in the ’20s, filled with road gangs like Alvin Karpis, Ma Barker and her Boys, and “Baby Face” Nelson, and continues on to the fall of the Wingfield banks, the control of early casinos, and the eventual fall to Chicago, Detroit and New York.
If you enjoyed Vegas and the Mob, this new book will fill you in on what was happening before Vegas was the Gaming Capital of the World.
Thanks for reading – Al W Moe