Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegal is the mobster who receives the credit for inventing Las Vegas and building the Flamingo Hotel which shifted the towns aura (to keep it short). And, don’t get me wrong, it’s safe to say that he had a notable impact on the sleepless city. However, the learned history that claims he established Las Vegas is simply a myth.
It all began with The Flamingo Hotel which changed the ambiance of the city to what we experience it as today. Ditching the dusty Old West theme, The Flamingo Hotel & Casino was sleek, modern, and most desirably, luxurious. This shift was inspired by the humble work of Billy Wilkerson. Wilkerson was publisher of the Hollywood Reporter newspaper and owner of multiple trendy Los Angeles restaurants and nightclubs. The man was a total success. Well, except for the fact that he had a massive gambling problem. And what typically happens, happened to him: he lost all of his money. This forced him to turn to the mob for help who was Siegel (essentially). Siegel and Wilkerson worked side by side for a few months but once they began having disagreements Siegel took all control for himself by forcing Wilkerson out. Siegel opened up the hotel and the rest is [assumed] history. The Mob Museum is opening an exhibit on Friday, August 13th which will set the story straight about Siegal, The Flamingo and even the birth of Las Vegas.
The Flamingo And The Mob
On December 26th, 1946 The Flamingo opened its doors except, the doors to it’s hotel rooms remained closed due their lack of being finished. This, alongside guests having winning streaks forced Siegel to shutdown The Flamingo until the rooms were completed. When the resort re-opened in March it had 100 guest rooms and began to do significantly better. Confidence was high for Siegel but unfortunately everything took a turn. On June 20, 1947 he was killed and the mystery of who did it still lingers. Siegels murder was front-page worthy across the country and oddly attracted an increase in tourists to Las Vegas. The Mob Museum wrote, “Many visitors were drawn to the city on the prospect – however realistic – that the guy sitting next to them at the poker table or the bar might by in the Mob.” They elaborated, “This sense that Las Vegas offered opportunities to rub shoulders with the underworld – without any real complications – boosted the city’s growth more than any single casino ever could.”
Although, isn’t just a one and done success for Siegel. Prior to becoming invested in The Flamingo he had been involved in other Las Vegas casinos as well as the race wire. Being in control of the Southwest for The Mob, Siegel saw great success with the race wire in a number of casino’s that he was involved with.
Come Face To Face With The Truth
It’s been said that “there’s three sides to every story. Your side, their side and the truth.” Unfortunately for us, artifacts cannot talk. However, they can still deliver the truth. The Mob Museum will have memorabilia on display that will tell us new stories about the historic days of Bugsy Siegel and The Flamingo Hotel.
- Legal Document Signed by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel- the document that formally removed Billy Wilkerson from the Flamingo Hotel.
- Wilkerson’s Down Payment Check- the original check that Wilkerson wrote out as a down payment to purchase the land that the Flamingo would be built on.
- Five Cancelled Checks- five cancelled checks written out to five different casinos by Wilkerson to pay back his gambling debts.
- Invitation to The Flamingo’s Grand Opening
- The Museum’s Acquisitions
The Mob Museum
“Separating fact from fiction is a critical task for our Museum,” said Geoff Schumacher, vice president of exhibits and programs at The Mob Museum. He continued, “It is important for our guests to understand that Bugsy Siegel did not ‘invent’ Las Vegas, nor was he the lone visionary when it came to building and operating the first modern casino resort in Las Vegas. This exhibit aims to set the record straight while at the same time acknowledging the significant contributions that Siegel made to Las Vegas.”
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforment, or for short- the Mob Museum, is a non-profit organization which provides a world-class journey through true stories. The museum gives the unique experience that comes from being face to face with an artifact and moving through immersive story lines. After you learn about the true story behind Bugsy Siegel take some extra time to check out the Firearm Training Simulator, Crime Lab and their speakeasy which is part of the Prohibition history exhibition.