Famous Las Vegas Mobsters Who Created Sin City

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Posted: February 9, 2023

Updated: October 31, 2023

  • The most brutal gangsters of them all
  • The road to Las Vegas was paved with terrible sins
  • Famous Las Vegas mobsters

Las Vegas is probably the most famous city in the world, thanks to its colorful history. The story of the casino center wouldn’t be the same without the most famous Las Vegas mobsters. Let’s see who they were and how they shaped Sin City!

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The Mafia Creates Sin City!

The mafia came to Las Vegas in the forties. According to online gambling sites in Nevada, while the authorities were hunting down illegal gambling facilities and organizations across the United States, mobsters who were also involved didn’t want to worry about the next raid when they could do the same thing legally in Las Vegas. So, in the 1940s and 1950s, big hotels and casinos in Vegas were in the hands of people with mafia connections. 

Also, not only one or two organizations were present. Las Vegas was considered an open city in the criminal circles, where there was as much money as they wanted, so it was big enough for everyone to stay. There were mobsters from Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami, and the list could go on and on.

For a while, the open city was a relatively peaceful place because the mafia avoided killing around there. They didn’t want it to harm the business and scare away the people who brought in the money.

Famous Las Vegas mobsters
Picture Source: Pexels

However, in the seventies, times changed. The authorities toughened up, betrayals led to bloody showdowns, and lone criminals working on their own, could not feel safe either. There were more violent crimes between 1971 and 1974 than in the previous 25 years combined. Anthony Spilotro, better known as Tony the Ant, appeared in Vegas in 1971 and was responsible for most criminal cases.

Famous Las Vegas Mobsters

Anthony Spilotro’s name might sound familiar if you have seen the movie Casino. Nicholas Santoro, portrayed by Joe Pesci, was a gangster, famous for his lack of inhibitions and brutality. Many people don’t know that many characters, and even the story itself, is based on real mobsters and events. For example, in the most sadistic scene, where he tortured and murdered someone with their head in a vice. Joe Pesci’s role is no exception. Tony Spilotro was a real gangster, but in real life, he was even crueler and more vicious than in the Oscar-winning film.

He was born in 1938 in Chicago, the fourth kid of an Italian family of six children. His father ran an Italian restaurant frequented by gangsters. Not surprisingly, four of the five sons became criminals, and only one attended higher education and became a doctor.

Before Tony Spilotro dropped out of school, he was known for terrorizing his fellow students and got the nickname the ant because he was only 157 cm tall. At the age of 17, the police arrested him for theft for the first time, and according to other gangsters, he was sick. Spilotro’s particular brutality not only made him the most feared criminal of the 60s and 70s but ultimately sealed his own fate.

Although his main profile was punishing those who cheated or stole from the Las Vegas casinos, he began his criminal career, like most American gangsters, as a low-ranking criminal in a Chicago organization. He was already famous in the mafia for his unusual brutality, but that didn’t stop him from rising higher and higher on the career ladder. After all his sins, his life ended as brutally as he did others. Three men beat him and his younger brother to death in a cornfield in 1986, although, contrary to the film, they did not bury them alive.

Tony Accardo – The Real Godfather?

Accardo was Al Capone’s successor, but many people refer to him as the real Godfather. During the prohibition, Al Capone had his own underworld to rule, but after 1931, when he went to prison, then due to his health issues, his reign slowly came to an end. For a while, it was a question of who would take over and lead.

However, his legacy was not left without a leader for long, and Tony Accardo proved to be the most suitable to replace Capone. He started out as a low-ranking candidate, but over the years, he worked his way up the career ladder of the mob until he became Capone’s driver, bodyguard, and, finally, street gang leader.

Eventually, he took control of the entire mob. Unlike the boss, Accardo managed the organization from the background and did so for 40 years. With mob standards, he achieved a lot. He expanded their criminal influence and businesses, giving the members incredible power and wealth. Al Capone’s successor never became as notorious, and his name is unknown to most people even today.

Even though he is not among the most famous Las Vegas mobsters, he managed an empire from behind the scenes. Experts think his leadership strategy and intelligence was the main reason for his success. Though his hands were dirty. He got his nickname, Joe Batters, from Al Capone after he killed three men with a baseball bat during a dinner party.

Accardo was not only successful in the mafia but in sports betting. In the 1950s, he ran one of the most famous illegal bookmakers and owned several casinos in Vegas. They tried to kill him with a bomb in his car but survived.

After ending up on the backlist in Nevada, he moved to Florida and became a sports betting consultant. However, instead of actually relinquishing power, he only stepped away from it and began enjoying the fruits of his work in retirement. Despite numerous charges against him in various criminal cases, he spent only one day in custody. 

Famous Las Vegas Mobsters

Johnny Roselli was a member of the Chicago Mafia whose hands reached as far as Las Vegas and Hollywood. He made friends with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe and even tried his hand at film production. In the early 1960s, he was commissioned by the CIA to kill Fidel Castro, the communist leader of Cuba, with poisonous pills. According to another mobster, Roselli trained as a sniper while helping organize the training of anti-Castro mercenaries at a secret camp in Florida. 

Roselli was also involved in running mob-dominated casinos in Cuba, which were deeply affected when Castro shut them down. According to a public CIA document, he and other mafia members did not like it when Kennedy canceled the mission to eliminate Castro. It also came to light that it was Roselli’s job to shoot Kennedy if Oswald missed, but as far as we know, it never happened. 

In 1975, he testified about Operation Mongoose, which was the mission of killing Castro. However, Roselli was assassinated in 1976, weeks before he was due to testify before a committee investigating abuses by US intelligence services. Roselli would have been interrogated for the assassination of the president, but they found him in two pieces, stuffed inside a barrel, floating at sea. The mafia did not kid around!

Bugsy Siegel’s Downfall from Power

In many ways, one of the most famous Las Vegas mobsters’ careers was similar to that of other well-known underworld figures of the era, such as Al Capone. Bugsy was born in New York in 1906 to a poor Jewish family who had immigrated from Eastern Europe. The later dreaded gangster found a way out of poverty in crime as a child.

He dropped out of school early and supported himself by street-thieving for a long time. He had an attractive appearance but was famous for his cold blood and precision, whose main profile became liquor smuggling which flourished in the wake of the alcohol ban and contract-hire killing.

Through the illegal liquor trade and drug trafficking, Siegel acquired a huge fortune in a short time, and over the years, he built up an extensive network of contacts. For example, he was on good terms with Al Capone. Siegel became one of the most famous figures of the sparkling social life of the West Coast.  Celebrities like Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, and Frank Sinatra appeared at his parties in his Beverly Hills home.

The gangster got away without going to prison several times from the end of the 1930s, but the murder of Harry Greenberg and his association with the gambling scandal of 1944 did not do his reputation any good. 

Around this time, the press began to refer to Siegel as Bugsy, a nickname he hated throughout his life. He opened the famous Flamingo Hotel, but there were issues during the construction and it did not help that he clashed with other mobsters because of it.

This is probably why Benjamin Siegel died in 1947. In the home of his lover, Virginia Hill after unknown persons opened fire at him through the window. They never found his killers, but one day after his death, a mob boss took control of the Flamingo Hotel, and Las Vegas began to evolve into the city we know today. The Flamingo is still going strong. You can check it out at online gambling sites in Nevada!

Famous Las Vegas Mobsters 

Tony Cornero started as a smuggler. He smuggled Canadian whiskey into California. He moved to Las Vegas with his brother and bought a piece of land to build one of the city’s first casinos, Green Meadows.

Seeing the success, a prominent member of the New York mob demanded a stake in the casino, which Cornero refused. This ended up being the downfall of the place. Cornero sold his share and moved back to California.

Cornero subsequently became famous for its floating casinos. Click on the link for our gambling in air, land, and water article! Gambling was prohibited in the state of California at the time, so he found a loophole in operating casinos. It’s another matter that it wasn’t legal anyway, but the authorities didn’t really care about riverboats, even if they knew what was going on in these places.

However, this business also collapsed eventually, and Cornero moved again, back to Las Vegas. He built another casino, but the gambling regulator refused to grant a license due to Cornero’s past. Cornero, or as people called him, The Hat, piled up loans, getting deeper and deeper. One day, while playing, he collapsed and died. They suspect that someone poisoned his drink. He might have lived longer if there were online casinos like 20bet Casinoback then!

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