Experience the extraordinary and the infamous — see first-hand the places where mobsters lived, recreated, worked (legitimately and not), built empires, committed crimes and were memorialized in movies.
Here’s a guide to the people and places:
Aladdin: (1966-2007) This property, which hosted Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s wedding in 1967, was shaky financially from the start and, later, discovered to be run by the Partnership (Detroit) and St. Louis mobs, with skimming of course taking place. Four mobsters served time for it. (Now Planet Hollywood)
Anjoe’s Café Continental: Joseph “The Cook” D. Pignatello, personal chef and bodyguard to Giancana, wanted to buy into Anjoe’s in the early 1960s but needed a gambling license to do so. He applied for one, and Frank Sinatra pleaded his case to gaming regulators. But they said no due to The Cook’s association with Giancana, thus, killing the chef’s dream, at least temporarily — see Villa d’Este. (Now Fatburger)
Binion, Lester “Benny”: (1904-1989) This stout, cowboy gambler was feared and revered. After establishing himself as a ruthless gangster in Texas, he set up shop in Vegas, eventually opening the Horseshoe. For one, he’s known for founding the World Series of Poker. In 1951, Binion came close to being rubbed out when nemesis, Herbert Noble, was caught attaching bombs to a Beechcraft military attack aircraft, which he planned to drop here, on Binion’s home.
Binion, Lonnie Theodore “Ted”: (1943-1998) Mystery plagues the passing of Ted, Benny’s second son, which happened here in Ted’s home, in 1998. While initial COD was suicide by ingestion of a heroin/Xanax/Valium cocktail, his girlfriend Sandy Murphy and her other lover, Rick Tabish, were charged with drugging, suffocating then robbing Ted. (They were later acquitted.) Ted was the Horseshoe casino’s public face from ’64 to ’96, when gambling regulators banned him from the property due to drug use and eventually revoked his gaming permit for associating with Blitzstein.
Blitzstein, Herbert “Fat Herbie”: (1934-1997) This 6-foot-tall, 300-pound, impeccable dresser was a bookmaker, racketeer and loan shark. With the Spilotro brothers, he co-founded the Hole in the Wall Gang. On 1/06/97, Blitzstein was fatally shot in the head here, in his home, allegedly by Los Angeles and Buffalo mobsters who wanted his prostitution, loan sharking and insurance fraud enterprises.
Bluestein, Frank “Frankie Blue”: (1944-1980) Plain-clothed policemen shot Bluestein dead after he allegedly brandished a gun during a traffic stop at Sunrise Villas’ entrance. The 35 year old was the maître d’ of the Chicago Outfit-controlled Hacienda hotel-casino and a reputed Spilotro associate. Was the killing justified?
Caesars Palace: (1966-Today) Before even opening, this hotel-casino was mobbed up, with hidden investors including Giancana, Patriarca, Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo, Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo (a longtime buddy of Lansky) and Jerry Catena (a top assistant to Vito Genovese). The underworld contingent was so great and obvious — mobsters gambled in the casino in plain sight — gambling authorities forced the owners to sell to sever the gangsters’ involvement.
“Casino”: (1995) If you’re tracking the Mob, you’ll most likely love this Scorsese flick, a must-see for mobster fanatics. Top rated, the crime drama is based on the true story of the Stardust casino and Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, who ensured it all ran smoothly. Filming took place at various Vegas spots; several are on this tour.
Civella, Nicholas “Nick”: (1912-1983) An inaugural Black Book listee, Civella headed the vicious Kansas City Cosa Nostra for many years. Among other convictions, he served time for conspiracy to bribe from 1980 to ’83, when he was released due to dire health. In 1981 he was indicted for conspiracy to skim, but lung cancer took him out before a trial could take place.
Claiborne, Harry E.: (1917-2004) Now an office park, this 5-acre parcel was Claiborne’s home starting in 1950. This savvy defense attorney’s notorious clients included Siegel, Rosenthal and, his close friend, Benny Binion.
Coulthard, Bill: (1916-1972) Saying no to Benny Binion likely cost Coulthard his life. Coulthard, former FBI agent, who co-owned the land under Binion’s Horsehoe casino, refused to renew the gambler’s property lease. Soon after, Coulthard was murdered; after getting in his Caddy, he and it exploded from a bomb. The blatant hit took place in the then-county offices’ parking garage.
Cullotta, Frank: (1938-Today) A hitman for the Chicago Outfit, an enforcer here in Vegas and a Hole in the Wall Gang member, Cullotta eventually turned informant, even testifying against his friend, Spilotro. Upper Crust, funded with dirty money, was Cullotta’s pie shop.
Cusumano, Jr., Joseph “Joey” Vincent: (1935-Today) The Chicago Outfit chose Joey to succeed Spilotro as protector of its organized crime interests here. His affiliation with gangsters and a felony record landed him in the Black Book in 1990. Four months later, he survived an assassination attempt here, where he lived.
Dalitz, Morris “Moe” Barney: (1899-1989) Former bootlegger, Cleveland Syndicate founding member and top man in the Jewish Mafia, Dalitz is well-known in town for having run the Desert Inn for decades and for his non-gaming real estate development successes, including the Las Vegas Country Club and Boulevard Mall.
Desert Inn: (1950-2000) Under control of Cleveland’s Mayfield Road Gang and Dalitz, this hotel-casino was a home and rendezvous spot for numerous mobsters. Dalitz ran it until it until ’67, when he sold it to then-recluse Howard Hughes who’d been living in it for four years in a penthouse suite, consuming the entire top floor, and wouldn’t move out. Other excitement here was in ’55 when illegal gambler, Tony Cornero Stralla, suddenly died at a craps table … suspiciously. (Now part of the Wynn grounds)
Drew, John Frank: (1901-1990) Giancana had this Al Capone protégé placed as vice president and part owner of the Stardust to represent the Outfit’s interests. A federal grand jury indicted him on a charge of evading taxes equivalent to $1M+ today. Nevada officials investigated him for associating with Black Book inductee, Marshall Caifano.
Dunes: (1955-1993) was a hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada, that operated from May 23, 1955 to January 26, 1993. Designed by architect Maxwell Starkman, it was the tenth resort to open on the Strip. Bellagio now stands on the former grounds. The Dunes golf course is now occupied by parts of Monte Carlo, New York-New York, CityCenter, and Cosmopolitan, and T-Mobile Arena.This “Arabian Nights”-themed hotel-casino nearly went bust due to gambling losses after opening. After debuting, it was said to have links to New England Mafia, or Office, boss, Raymond Patriarca. (Now Bellagio)
El Cortez: (1941-Today) Bugsy Siegel flipped this casino, so to speak, suspiciously buying it in ’45 for $600K then selling it back to the previous owner the next year, for $766K. It remained in the hands of Lansky, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway because William Israel Alderman, a Lansky man from Minneapolis, owned a large part of it. Alderman’s alter-ego was “Ice Pick Willie,” named for his manner of settling disputes — boring such an instrument through one’s ears.
Flamingo: (1946-Today) On behalf of Lansky et al, Bugsy Siegel purchased, built out and opened the Flamingo, busting the budget in the process. Miffed about the project’s exorbitant cost and Siegel’s suspected embezzling from the enterprise, the gangsters for whom Bugsy worked, including since-childhood friend Lansky, conspired to have him taken out. Ironically, the movie, “Bugsy,” which (not entirely accurately) portrays Siegel’s involvement with the Flamingo, was filmed elsewhere. But Siegel’s spirit is said to haunt the outdoor memorial in his honor here.
Fremont: (1956-Today) Now a part of Vegas’ Fremont Street Experience, this iconic casino was originally owned by Edward Levinson and Lou Lurie and later became another Chicago Outfit holding. In ’86, mob boss Joseph J. Aiuppa and four other mobsters were convicted of skimming from it and the Stardust, both of which they secretly controlled. As for cinematic fame, several scenes in “Swingers” were shot inside.
Giancana, Sam “Momo”: (1908-1975) The most powerful boss of the Chicago Outfit, he was a “snarling, sarcastic, ill-tempered, sadistic psychopath,” according to a high-ranking policeman. Because of Giancana’s psychological makeup, he earned the nickname Mooney, which he altered to Momo. Over his lifetime he was arrested more than 70 times, for everything from illegal gambling to murder. He was whacked in his home by gunshots to the back of the head and face; why and by whom remain mysteries.
Goodman, Oscar: (1939-Today) This former defense attorney’s client roster reads like a Who’s Who of Mobsters — Lansky, Cusumano, Blitzstein, Rosenthal, Spilotro, Speciale… Goodman later became Las Vegas’ mayor and today owns Oscar’s, billed as the spot for “Beef, Booze & Broads.” If you watch carefully, you’ll spot the man himself in “Casino.”
Lansky, Meyer: (1902-1938) With only an eighth-grade education but savvy in numbers and finance, Lansky became the Mob’s accountant, involved in all kinds of rackets. Gambling, though, seemed his favorite. He had ties to casinos here, in Reno, Cuba, Florida and elsewhere, and for some time got a piece from six Vegas gambling houses simultaneously. Lansky, a Jewish-American, is known for uniting with Italian-American Mafioso, boyhood friend Charles “Lucky” Luciano in particular, to maximize their common underworld interests.
Levinson, Edward “Ed”: (1898-1981) Before moving here in 1952 and eventually becoming the co-owning, operating and skimming honcho of the Fremont, he was associated with other U.S. casino enterprises, including in Cleveland, Miami and Detroit (where he was pinched twice for illegal gambling). He also owned stakes here in the Sands, Royal Nevada and Horseshoe.
Masterana, Sr., Frank Joseph: (1929-2009) At the request of Lansky man, Joseph “Doc” Stracher, this gambler and bookie moved here in the early 1950s and worked as a dealer at nearly all the city’s major casinos. In ’88, his 30-year, gambling-related criminal record garnered him a spot in the Black Book.