Gangster Attractions Walking Tour, Las Vegas

Gangster Attractions Walking Tour (Self Guided), Las Vegas

The development of Las Vegas as a gambling and entertainment hub in the mid-20th century drew the attention of powerful criminal syndicates, who saw the potential for profit in the city's casinos and other enterprises. Indeed, Las Vegas with its glitz and glamour wouldn't be what it is now without the involvement of mobster “wiseguys”. There are still a few places in town that evoke the mob-tinged Vegas heyday and inspired a bunch of Hollywood movies.

One of the most notorious figures in Las Vegas's gangster history was Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, a Jewish American mobster who played a key role in developing the Flamingo Hotel and Casino on the Strip in the late 1940s. Another location with a storied past, intertwined with gangsters, is the El Cortez Hotel and Casino, once owned by Siegel and also frequented by other “celebrity” criminals, such as Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, a prototype of the character portrayed by Joe Pesci in the "Casino" movie.

The nearby Mob Museum chronicles the city's history of organized crime and its ties to the national underworld. Tony Roma's, a popular steakhouse chain, has a special place in the Las Vegas gangster scene, too, much as the Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel, located on the Strip. This hotel-casino opened in 1957 and was owned by a consortium of mobsters, including Frank Costello; today it continues to offer visitors a taste of vintage Las Vegas glamour.

The "Sin City" nickname for Las Vegas originated during the gangster era and referred to the city's reputation as a place of vice, corruption, and illicit activities. If you're keen to see some of the most famous mob spots in Vegas that haven't yet been rubbed out by redevelopment over the years, take this self-guided walk.
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Gangster Attractions Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Gangster Attractions Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Las Vegas (See other walking tours in Las Vegas)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 4 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 10.2 Km or 6.3 Miles
Author: alice
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Mob Museum
  • El Cortez Hotel and Casino
  • Tony Roma’s
  • Flamingo Las Vegas
  • Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel
Mob Museum

1) Mob Museum (must see)

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, popularly known as The Mob Museum, is a dedicated institution that showcases the artifacts, narratives, and historical significance of organized crime in the United States. It also highlights the efforts and strategies employed by law enforcement to combat such criminal activities. Originally opened on February 14th, 2012, the museum finds its home in the former Las Vegas Post Office and Courthouse, a building constructed in 1933 and presently recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

In April 2018, The Mob Museum unveiled a captivating addition to its premises known as The Underground Exhibit. Located in the basement, this fully operational speakeasy and distillery pays homage to the era of Prohibition with its Art Deco design and an array of authentic artifacts from the 1920s. It commemorates the bootleggers, rumrunners, and moonshiners who ingeniously supplied Americans with alcohol during the thirteen years of federal "dry" season. Among the remarkable features of The Underground is a specially crafted still used to produce in-house 100 proof, 100% corn moonshine, renowned for its authenticity and safety. Initially exclusive to The Underground, the Mob Museum's moonshine became available for purchase in 2019 through select Lee's Discount Liquor stores in the Las Vegas Valley.

Undoubtedly, the basement of the Mob Museum serves as an ideal setting for a speakeasy. The Underground facility offers 30-minute tours to visitors each day, commencing at 5 pm. To gain access, patrons must ring a bell and provide a secret password. Once inside, they can indulge in classic cocktails and moonshine while reveling in the ambiance of live jazz.

Why You Should Visit:
To explore artifacts from law enforcement's epic battle against the bad guys, to sample a variety of in-house distilled spirits (moonshine, vodka and the Jamaica ginger infusion), plus to receive an in-depth explanation of the distillery equipment and distillation process (Prohibition-era bootlegging and rum running), and to learn more about Prohibition and its impact on distilled spirits.

Consider adding the firearms simulator option, for it helps to learn more about how a police officer must be prepared to make a life/death split-second decision.
El Cortez Hotel and Casino

2) El Cortez Hotel and Casino

El Cortez, a casino-hotel property in Las Vegas, has been in operation since November 7, 1941, making it one of the city's oldest establishments that is still active. Situated near the Fremont Street Experience and Las Vegas Boulevard, it was initially considered a bit far from downtown. However, its success was swift and substantial, leading infamous mobsters Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum, and Moe Sedway to acquire it in 1945 for $600,000. Siegel himself gained valuable experience in running a casino business at El Cortez.

Despite the passing decades, El Cortez continues to thrive. The building predominantly showcases Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, but it underwent a modernization of its facade in 1952. Following subsequent renovations and revitalization efforts, the establishment added a new tower and a neon sign—an iconic art form that had fallen out of favor until recently, when certain hotels and businesses rediscovered its charm.

Recognizing its historical significance, El Cortez was officially included on the National Register of Historic Places on February 22, 2013.
Tony Roma’s

3) Tony Roma’s

Other than the great food, this chain rib joint made history back in the early 1980s as the place where the longtime maxim that the mob never carried out a hit in Las Vegas, especially in public, was broken. Normally, they took care of this side of “business” out in the desert, miles away from the city. But rules get broken from time to time, and it sure did happen here on the night of October 4, 1982 when Lefty Rosenthal, a longtime secret manager of the mob-controlled Stardust Hotel, had his Cadillac El Dorado blown up in the parking lot outside Tony Roma’s.

As Rosenthal got in, put the key in the ignition and turned it – Boom! The car was turned into a twisted hunk of charred metal, but miraculously, Rosenthal himself got away pretty much unscathed, save a few minor burns. True to the mob's code, he didn’t cooperate with the police investigation. The actual scene was depicted in the 1995 “Casino” movie, starring Robert DeNiro.

Tony Roma’s closed the outlet in 2014, and the building sat vacant until Larry Flynt, president of Larry Flynt Publications, turned it into an adult store, Hustler Hollywood.
Flamingo Las Vegas

4) Flamingo Las Vegas

Flamingo Las Vegas, formerly known as The Fabulous Flamingo and Flamingo Hilton Las Vegas, was conceived by the ambitious mobster entrepreneur Bugsy Siegel. Siegel believed that a luxurious resort-style casino located along the road to Los Angeles would attract a more upscale clientele than the Western-themed hotels in downtown Vegas. In 1945, he and his partners were enticed by Las Vegas' legalized gambling and off-track betting, prompting their arrival.

Initially, Siegel acquired El Cortez on Fremont Street, but his expansion plans were hindered by unsympathetic city officials who were aware of his criminal background. Consequently, he sought a site beyond the city limits. Upon learning that Wilkerson needed additional funding, Siegel and his partners masqueraded as businessmen and acquired a two-thirds stake in the project directly.

Siegel took charge of construction, persuading more underworld associates to invest. Despite spending a lot of mob money, he grew impatient with rising costs. He allegedly claimed to have eliminated 16 people but assured his builder it was only within their own ranks. Siegel had an escape plan with a hidden ladder in the "Presidential Suite." It led to an underground garage with a waiting limousine. Sadly, his creation couldn't save him from a fatal gunshot to the head. Mob bosses suspected his embezzlement and ordered his assassination.

The architectural design of the Flamingo pays homage to the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles of Miami and South Beach. Remaining true to its theme and name, the hotel features a garden courtyard that serves as a habitat for flamingos. The establishment initially opened in 1946 but experienced setbacks before ultimately reopening and achieving success. It stands as the oldest resort on the Strip that is still in operation and the sole local casino from the pre-1950s era that remains in business.

A memorial dedicated to Bugsy Siegel can be found on the hotel grounds, adjacent to the Wedding Chapel.
Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel

5) Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel

Before 2013, the Tropicana Las Vegas Hotel, situated on the Strip, hosted a renowned but ill-fated spectacle known as the Las Vegas Mob Experience. This show aimed to depict the significant influence of organized crime on the development of the world's foremost gambling city.

The interactive tour offered a captivating blend of entertainment, history, storytelling, artifacts, and technology, showcasing the rise and fall of the Mafia in the Las Vegas Valley. Visitors embarked on a journey into the realm of organized crime, engaging with live character actors and witnessing 3D holographic representations of iconic mob movie stars and renowned gangsters like James Caan, Frank Vincent, Tony Sirico, and Mickey Rourke.

Furthermore, the Experience boasted an impressive collection of original photographs, videos, letters, personal effects, and various other artifacts associated with infamous gangsters such as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Sam Giancana, Tony Spilotro, Mickey Cohen, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, and Joey Aiuppa.

Over 25 tumultuous years, the hotel itself faced recurring financial troubles, changing hands between a series of owners and managers, some with legitimate ties and others less scrupulous, with connections to the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Kansas City mobs. Eventually, the establishment underwent a substantial renovation.

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