When the Outfit Controlled Vegas

One of the places on our upcoming Vegas trip that I am most eager to see is the Mob Museum, more fully known as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, much of Las Vegas was controlled by “The Outfit,” also known as the Mafia. Probably the best introduction to that history is Michael Scorsese’s film Casino (1995), starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. It in turn was based on Nicholas Pileggi’s Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, which I read with pleasure. There is also an excellent work of reportage by Dennis N. Griffin which goes over the same territory, but with more of a law enforcement point of view. The book that I read was titles The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. the Mob.

All three sources follow the story of Lefty Rosenthal (called Ace Rothstein in the Scorsese film) and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro (Nicky Santoro in the movie). It took years to bring down the mob. In 1986, Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael were murdered by the mob bosses, who were tired of all the attention that was being focused on them, and buried in a Midwestern cornfield. According to some sources, they were first beaten and buried alive.

Since the mob days, Vegas has been Disneyfied. Big time real estate developers moved in and made it into a family destination—though there are still pockets of naughtiness around the edges.