The Chicago Outfit and Skimming Las Vegas

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’ve finished another book that deals with Las Vegas casinos and the impact organized crime had on the city and its eventual financial health as the 1980s rolled around. However, Vegas and the Chicago Outfit is primarily about how the Outfit came to power, how its early overlords and bosses managed things before and during Prohibition, and why Las Vegas was such an attractive lure in the 1940s.

The easy answer to embracing Las Vegas was legalized gaming. Still, the Mob and organized crime – which I’ve always seen as centered structurally and authoritatively in New York during Lucky Luciano’s reign – was much broader and stronger than the FBI ever wanted to admit.

And, while there were interconnecting webs of intelligence and cooperation between crime families in New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Detroit, Toledo, Milwaukee, St Louis, and Kansas City in the 1930s, Chicago had the tightest grip on muscle and hitters at the time.

If you weren’t aware, All Capone came to Chicago from New York, and Bugsy Siegel did too. Bugsy was still aligned with Lucky Luciano (and everyone’s favorite money-mover, Meyer Lansky) until his early death after pushing for Hollywood action, Las Vegas skim, a little Mexico drug smuggling, and of course, what greatly impacted the decision to contract his hit, the race wire.

Why Chicago Came Late to Las Vegas

Chicago had plenty of illegal gaming operations in town, not to mention other cities like Cicero and Joliet. And they muscled into the numbers racket, so there was plenty of cash coming in. Still, profitable outside operations were squeezed when bosses Frank Nitti and Paul Ricca were charged with a host of bad-boy crimes against the Hollywood movie industry via union shenanigans in 1943. Their exploits were chronicled by crusading newspaper reporter Westbrook Pegler for which he won a Pulitzer Prize.

As his prison stay approached, Nitti took to the streets and shot himself three times, dying in an unnatural position against a wire fence in a train yard. Ricca took his prison sentence with more grit, holding a grip on the Chicago Outfit while his protégé, Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo, took the helm.

With that backdrop, Vegas looked like an easy score, and Siegel, already spending most of his time in Hollywood, was coerced to turn his attention to Sin City. He wasn’t happy about it, but Luciano and Accardo offered support, and his friend Lansky did the same.

To that score, Siegel spent a flood of cash getting the Flamingo casino open, keeping his girlfriend, Virginia Hill, in new dresses, pumps, and jewelry, and letting her decorate the casino. Ever wonder where the saying, “It’s decorated in early Las Vegas,” comes from? Not exactly a compliment, but she’s definitely a contributor to the garish red colors casinos were slathered with from the ’40s to ’70s.

The cash skimmed from the Flamingo may have exasperated the Mob’s bosses and expedited Siegel’s departure from this earthly plain, but the money siphoned away over the next few decades was prodigious, and so was the way the cash left Nevada. That’s the story in Vegas and the Chicago Outfit, and I hope both of my readers buy a copy. Kindle or paperback, I’m not picky.

Hey, really, thanks for reading! And if you want to enjoy Vegas and the Chicago Outfit by listening to it on Audible, click here!


3 thoughts on “The Chicago Outfit and Skimming Las Vegas

Add yours

  1. In the Above referenced Chicago Outfit Book why did you omit Operation Greylord when referring to FBI stings on page 268 ? Over 90 people indicted. The trials lasting almost 10 years with numerous Judges, public officials, lawyers, and court personnel involved.


    1. That’s a good question. Greylord was huge, and you’re right, perhaps it should have been covered. Still, connecting the operation to the skimming in Las Vegas would be tenuous at best. Also, the last few chapters were mostly a wrap-up of the families and what happened to them re: Vegas – mostly as the 1980s rolled around and Greylord was mid-’80s. Still, it would have highlighted some excellent FBI and Justice Department work.


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