The members of Estes Kaefauver's Senate committee on organized crime came away full of disapproval for the desert city--- after holding hearings in Las Vegas during November 1950. The senators' reproach began with the influence of racketeers in legalized gaming, the ostensible object of their investigation, but it extended well beyond to indict virtually all aspects of life in southern Nevada. The committee pronounced the milieu of casino betting 'not healthy' for the local population.
A 'short tour' of either Las Vegas or Reno, it decided, demonstrated conclusively that 'gambling is the major preoccupation of the residents of both places.'
Kefauver even resented the western informality of the resort; one hotel owner had the presumption to address 'everyone--- even the dignified Senator Tobey of New Hampshire--- as fellow.'
After only a brief stay in the town, the senators found all of Las Vegas incapable of meeting their standards. They condemned not just casinos, but an entire style of living that seemed to revolve around gambling.
The senators' disapproval of the gaming resort reflected their attachment to stuffy eastern standards.
Las Vegas broke with the past too sharply for the tastes of traditionalists. It had no familiar shape, no conventional economy, and no existence apart from casino gaming.
It prospered by catering to Americans' taste for 'vices', so Easterners naturally wondered about the fate of those who lived there.
In Las Vegas, it was well-known, visitors did that which they were forbidden to do at home and then they departed the city, leaving behind their money and their abandon.
Residents of southern Nevada could leave neither the gambling nor the resort behind so easily, however.
They were Las Vegans, and other people's 'sinful' playground was their home.
The presence of legal casino gambling made Las Vegas an unusual hometown. As residents of the nation's gaming capital, southern Nevadans not only dispensed the new ways of living with new cultural forms intimately.
They dwelled not only on the frontier of gambling, but also on the frontier of society, for gambling accelerated in southern Nevada the development of postindustrial trends.
Even Angelenos described the place as 'extreme' and bizarre'.
Like the members of the Kefauver committee, many Las Vegans blamed the peculiar condition of their community on gambling, but they were not the first American Westerners to encounter the dilemmas presented by gaming to society.
From colonial Virginia to modern California, frontiersmen had tolerated wide-open gambling for only so long before supplanting it with more respectable activities.
In Nevada, however, casino gaming was an economic staple. Las vegans could not afford neither to outlaw nor to minimize gambling. More than other Westerners, they had to accommodate the practice within their society and resolve the dilemmas that it presented.
This they accomplished by building a hometown that at once promoted gambling while insulating inhabitants from the side effects of the practice.
They devised a residential culture that distanced them from gaming casinos, but in so doing that they had also distanced themselves from each other.
Las Vegans found it difficult to maintain a strong sense of community in southern Nevada.
The surrounding desert made permanent settlement seem improbable, and the fast pace growth, typical of other far western cities during the mid-twentieth century, made society relatively atomistic.
Currently, casinos and players follow the rules of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Las Vegas’s allure is irresistible to the world’s tourists, and also for our country’s conventioneers. Tradeshow Week magazine ranked Las Vegas at the top of their list of America’s most popular convention sites in 1999. This oasis in the desert hosted 32 of the 200 largest conventions in the United States, followed distantly by Chicago and New York. But conventioneers beware! Las Vegas has its allure, and it also has its drawbacks. The noted Philadelphia attorney Albert B. Gerber booked a First Amendment Lawyers Association (FALA) annual meeting there. His endless problem was corralling FALA lawyers who were strung out at the gambling tables, and getting them into the seminars and meetings.
Conventions in the following years were held in cities offering less razzle-dazzle. All those genial, ever-smiling casino hosts and owners are always playing hardball, no matter how friendly they appear. Even when they go out of their way to comp you for a drink or a meal, they have only one thought in their mind, just one goal on their agendas: separating you from your money as quickly as possible. In case you doubt what I say, let me tell you about the gala opening day of Circus Circus in Las Vegas.
Bally Casino for weeks prior to its debut as the first las vegas casino geared for the family crowd, opening day at Circus Circus was eagerly anticipated. When the day came, the crowds lined up early. Frankly, I didn’t give a tinker’s dam for a family-oriented casino as I was a foot-loose bachelor, and a casino was a casino, but this day I was with a lady friend-of-the-moment who was eager to see the new attraction. Reluctantly 1 said okay, and we joined the long line that snaked halfway to the Next Casino. 1 hadn’t seen a line this long since the heyday of Radio City Music Hall. After an interminable wait we finally got inside. With all the hoopla and advance publicity, there was more razzle-dazzle than one could imagine. Bands, acrobats, circus animals. Dozens of carnival booths ringed the three-story building, with all the carnies hawking their wares and spieling their spiel, not to mention the jugglers, clowns, and trapeze artists that rounded out the pageant.
You get the picture. The noise from all of the above was maddening. Fighting my way to a green-felt table—any green-felt table—was a hassle in itself. Finally 1 managed to squeeze in at a craps table (I really didn’t want to shoot craps, but getting a seat at a blackjack table was well-nigh impossible). I stuck it out for a few hands because a guy at the other end of the table had a great shoot, but the cacophony was beginning to get to me. Able to stand it no longer, I picked up my chips and looked around for the cashier’s cage.
When it first opened in 1946, as the dream child of noted mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel Las Vegas’ famed Flamingo hotel and casino was easily the most notorious joint in the city. These days, the only original thing that remains of one of Sin City’s most infamous sites is the name. At the time of its opening, the Flamingo (then called The Pink Flamingo) was easily the largest and most luxurious casino and resort in Las Vegas, but it was also incomplete. For a month, the new property operated heavily in the red until Siegel was forced to close it in January of 1947. Two months later the now finished Flamingo was reopened, and this time its rooms were full. Fearing assassination attempts after the casino’s first failed opening, Siegel spared no expense in building his own special suite inside the hotel. Unfortunately, Siegel wasn’t inside the steel walls of his safety room when he was shot in June of 1947. When the last of the original buildings were bulldozed in 1993, the storied suite went with them. The Flamingo has changed hands five times and names four times in its 60+ year history, and with each change and the resulting renovations its dark reputation has faded. It was the flagship Hilton Las Vegas property for over 20 years, but today it is owned by the largest casino operator in the world, Harrah’s Entertainment. In its heyday, the Flamingo attracted some of the hippest celebrities and hottest acts in the country, but these days it caters to a more conservative audience with acts like Donny and Marie. Its current crowd of fanny pack favoring middle aged slot players are certainly a far cry from the gun-toting mobsters that once marched its halls.Share on: