Much of the story of the mob in Vegas has been told in books and movies. Bugsy, the 1991 film, depicted Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, played by Warren Beatty, who built the Flamingo with the mob's capital, the first high-dollar attraction on the Strip. Six months after the over-budget project opened, Siegel was shot in his girlfriend's Beverly Hills home.
Former New York cop turned crime writer Dennis Griffin, author of The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. the Mob, says Vegas was an "open city" — no one family or organization controlled it. Cooperation was required, he says, because various families had a representative on the Teamsters union pension board, and its funds were a source of money for new developments.
"I don't consider it glorification. It's telling the facts, what it was like to work as a mobster," he says.
Crime is a proven attraction in Sin City.
Six nights a week, tourists fork over $56 or more for a ticket to a narrated bus ride called the Las Vegas Mob Tour. Visitors hear stories and see the house where much of Casino was filmed, a church built with mob money, the restaurant where Rosenthal's car was bombed.
Bobby Baltus, a tough-talking tour guide in pinstripes, says visitors eat it up.
"Let's face it, these guys built this town," he says. "If it wasn't for them, there probably wouldn't be a Las Vegas."
And, he says, "where else in America could a mobster's lawyer become the town's mayor?"