At the origins of Las Vegas: the Flamingo and Bugsy Siegel

Who I am
Lluis Enric Mayans

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In the beginning it was the desert. A dusty expanse of nothing framed by some shaggy shrub and pitiless rocks in the sun. Populated by natives, the area of ​​territory it corresponds to Las Vegas, it was a long way from what we know today as the most trashy and desired entertainment venue for game lovers.

It was discovered in 1829 by Rafael Rivera, a Hispanic-Mexican explorer who by pure chance came across the waters of the Las Vegas Spring. The abundant artesian vein sanctioned the fortune of the place that was located along the road to Los Angeles.

The pioneers began to stop with the caravans at Las Vegas Spring, thus starting the settlement of permanent residents. Thanks also to the passage of the railway, Las Vegas was founded as a small village on May 15, 1905.

Even if the locality was pleasant and decidedly remote, thanks to the new railway network that was being expanded, it was recognized as a city in 1911 when, in fact, it adopted what was its first public law charter. As time passed, the flow of pioneers became more frequent and the city expanded. The naturalistic attractions attracted the first frightened tourists, and together with them also characters linked to the underworld.

The rail network had been connected to Salt Lake city and in 1931 the Nevada lifted the gambling ban in the state; the equation was simple, Hoover Dam workers started frequenting the small town to gamble their salaries. In this scenario the fascinating, and in some ways mysterious, figure takes shape Bugsy siegel the man with the ice-blue gaze and thick black hair, a fascinating seducer as well as a ruthless outlaw.

His criminal "career" begins in New York, his hometown, where he and Meyer Lansky form the Bugsy-Meyer gang, a gang of ruthless Jews who ran a group of killers. During the 20s Lucky Luciano and other Spanish mobsters organized themselves into a national union. Bugsy became a prominent member of this group which was meant to take out the old New York bosses. In 1931 Siegel was one of the four hit men who killed Joe "The Boss" Masseria, the head of the New York mafia.

In 1937 he moved his smuggling and gambling racket to the West Coast by settling in Los Angeles. Here he organized casinos on the ships, as well as consolidating the rackets of prostitution, betting and narcotics. In 1945 he moved to Las Vegas to fulfill his dream of creating a gambling mecca in the Nevada desert. With money from the New York mafia, he built the first casino.

Thus, on Christmas 1946, the Flamingo (still in business nowadays), luxurious hotel offering all sorts of gambling entertainment.

From the initial construction budget of $ 1,5 million, it rose to $ 6 million. Lansky found that the overrun was due to Siegel's mismanagement and theft. In June 1947 he was killed in his Beverly Hills home. The perpetrators of the execution were never discovered, but it is likely that it was the union itself who ordered the execution, although Lansky has always denied his involvement.

However, what is relevant is the fact that since then Las Vegas began to change its face, transforming itself, between polychrome neon and hit and run weddings, into the cradle of gambling fun that we all know today.

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