VIDEO VAULT | Organized crime's history in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) —
Starting this Friday, the Plaza Hotel downtown is hosting a three-day gathering of people from around the country who share an interest in organized crime. It's called MobWorld Summit.
For those not already familiar with our local history, this story starts with a spoiler alert.
"Law enforcement won," declares event organizer Larry Henry. "Corporate casinos took over in Las Vegas, ran a lot of the mobsters out. But it did create a lot of interest in what happened. And as court trials occurred, as documents came out and it showed what happened in Las Vegas—and elsewhere in the country, but especially in Las Vegas—where those mobsters got into Las Vegas and got into those casinos."
These days, Henry is an educator in Northwest Arkansas, but he has become very familiar with the history of Southern Nevada first as a reporter and editor for the Las Vegas Sun in the early '90s, and currently as a content contributor to the Mob Museum. He says Hollywood has fueled curiosity about "wiseguys."
"People want to know who really were the characters in that movie 'Casino.' Who was Lefty Rosenthal—who was the De Niro character? Who was Geri Rosenthal—his wife, the Sharon Stone character? Tony Spilotro—the Chicago enforcer in Las Vegas. The mobster, the Pesci character. Who was really Tony Spilotro?"
Rosenthal in particular had a colorful Las Vegas presence as the inside man at the Stardust and other properties in the '70s.
"The guy who was skimming money for the Chicago mob from the casinos had a variety television show back then," marvels Henry. "It shows how open ... Sinatra was on the show and a lot of other famous characters."
Rosenthal ran the casinos, while Spilotro handled the rough stuff, all to keep the money flowing from here to the Midwest.
"Chicago and Kansas City, Milwaukee, Cleveland...those towns," offers Henry. "Las Vegas was wide open."
"This man, Frank Balistrieri has been named in documents filed in federal court as a recipient of skim money from Las Vegas," voiced News 3's Hank Tester in 1982 over video of a man being chased by reporters and photographers. "Balistrieri, from Milwaukee, allegedly receives his cut from a Chicago crime syndicate."
"$200,000-$300,000 a month," FBI Agent Charlie Parsons would tell News 3 three decades later. "It wasn't millions and millions. But it was going directly to [Chicago Boss] Joe Aiuppa. And then Aiuppa in turn would share the skim money with the other families involved."
Anyone playing games of chance in Las Vegas casinos might be unknowingly contributing to the skim back then.
"You throw some money on their craps table or blackjack table, they'll stuff it into a slot," explains Henry. "There's really no accounting for how much money goes in. So they take it back to the count room before it's taxed. They just skim it off the top."
This weekend's conference combines people who have written and reported on the mob with some who lived it.
"It's a chance to meet with the mobsters, the cops, the casino owners, people like that. The journalists who actually were there at that time, and talk to them about it."
Henry hopes to socialize, discuss, educate and -- in some cases -- help set the record straight.
"The myth that they only killed each other and they were honorable people...it's a myth," he concludes. "Those societies were dirty, they were corrupt. They rob from the public."
MobWorld summit starts Friday evening with events and panel discussions continuing through Sunday at the Plaza Hotel on Main at Fremont.