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HISTORY

Bugsy Siegel, the gangster who set up the ‘Flamingo’, the first casino in Las Vegas

In the 1940s in Las Vegas, Nevada, hotels with gambling casinos began to be built, but behind that empire there was a raw story...

Las Vegas, Nevada, is considered one of the most fun tourist destinations in the world due to its 24-hour gambling casinos, flashy signs with neon lights, and the possibility of offering spontaneous weddings in chapels that include the presence of iconic characters such as Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe.

And not for nothing has this city in the desert lived up to its nickname ‘Sin City’ over the years, but, although many people visit it to have a good time and why not, to earn some money, its origin is marked by a story involving a very feared gangster named Bugsy Siegel.

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Surprisingly, thanks to this American gangster, the city has several casinos, mostly luxury ones, where people spend a fun vacation since he was in charge of installing the ‘Pink Flamingo’, the first casino hotel in Las Vegas.

Bugsy Siegel and the Mafia

Benjamin Siegelbaum, known as Bugsy Siegel, was considered one of the most ruthless mobsters between 1930 and 1940. He was born on February 28, 1906, in New York in the nucleus of a Jewish family that had money and stability problems.

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Since he was a child, he became involved with people who taught him how to commit various crimes, among them Mayer Lansky, a mobster who sought to replicate the models of the Italian Mafia. At that time, Siegel became a hitman who was also in charge of ‘settling scores’.

Over time he gained much fame and his elegant clothes and physical attractiveness led him to meet important celebrities such as movie actors and directors. In fact, it is said that Frank Sinatra used to be the one who entertained his parties.

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‘Flamingo’, the first casino hotel in Las Vegas

One day his fame declined after he ended up in prison and it was in Las Vegas where he found another opportunity to “shine”. Starting in 1931, gambling and betting in this city began to be legal, so many businessmen began to be interested in investing in businesses, among them, one in which William R. Wilkerson, founder of the Hollywood Reporter and owner of several bars and nightclubs, was involved.

It is said that the mobster was inspired by the long legs of his mistress and manager, Virginia Hill, to design the name and concept of the hotel that opened its doors in December 1946 with only the casino and in 1947 finally opened as a hotel.

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Business for Siegel was going well until some people realized that he was stealing a lot of money along with Virginia Hill, who diverted two million dollars to an account in Switzerland.

Who killed Bugsy Siegel?

On June 20, 1957, the gangster was reading a newspaper in the comfort of his mansion when he was suddenly killed by nine shots. This marked the fall of the most famous and respected mobster in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Some versions point out that his associates were involved, as they were upset by Siegel’s dirty deeds in stealing money from them.

The next day, Las Vegas mob boss David Berman took possession of the famous ‘Pink Flamingo’.

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Story originally published in Cultura Colectiva in Spanish.


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