King of the Strip

battle-jpg.jpg“King of the Strip”

 

In the 1970s and thru the mid-1980s, the Chicago Outfit was the dominant organized crime family in Las Vegas, with business interests in several casinos.  During those years the Outfit and its colleagues in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Cleveland were using Sin City as a cash cow. Commonly referred to as the “skim,” unreported revenue from Outfit-controlled casinos was making its way out of Vegas by the bag full and ending up in the coffers of the crime bosses in those four locations.

 

The skim involved large amounts of money. The operation had to be properly set up and well managed to ensure a smooth cash flow. To accomplish that goal, the gangsters brought in a front man with no criminal record to purchase several casinos. Allen R. Glick, doing business as the Argent Corporation (Allen R. Glick Enterprises) purchased the Stardust, Fremont, Hacienda, and Marina. They next installed Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal as their inside man, and the real boss of the casino operations. Rosenthal was a Chicago native and considered to be a genius when it came to oddsmaking and sports betting. Under Lefty’s supervision the casino count rooms were accessible to mob couriers.

 

But even with the competent Rosenthal in charge, there remained room for problems. What if an outsider tried to muscle in on the operation? Or just as bad, suppose one of their own decided to skim the skim? To guard against such possibilities the Chicago bosses decided to send someone to Vegas to give Rosenthal a hand should trouble arise. The successful applicant had to be a person with the kind of reputation that would deter interlopers from horning in, and make internal theft too risky to try. But the mob’s outside man had to be capable of action as well as threats. In other words, he had to be a man who would do whatever it took to protect the Outfit’s interests. So, in 1971, 33-year-old Tony Spilotro, considered by many to be the “ultimate enforcer,” was sent to the burgeoning gambling and entertainment oasis in the desert. Spilotro, sometimes called “tough Tony,” or “the Ant,” was a made man of the Outfit and a childhood friend of Rosenthal. He was known as a man who could be counted on to get the job done.

 

Being an ambitious sort, Tony quickly recognized that there were other criminal opportunities in his new hometown besides skimming from the casinos. Street crimes ranging from loan sharking to burglary, robbery, and fencing stolen property were all in play. It wasn’t very long before Tony had his hands into every one of these areas. As the scope of his criminal endeavors grew, Tony brought in other heavies from Chicago to fill out his gang. The five-foot-six-inch gangster was soon being called the “King of the Strip.”

 

Federal and local law enforcement recognized the need to rid the casinos of the hidden ownership and control of the mob, and shut down Spilotro’s street rackets. They declared war on organized crime and the battle was on. It was a hard fight, with plenty of tough guys on both sides. But it was a confrontation the law knew it had to win.

 

The Battle for Las Vegas relates the story of that conflict, told in large part by the agents and detectives who lived it.

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