Category Archives: Las Vegas History

Mugshot of Famous Las Vegas Mobster Bugsy Siegel

Where to Get a Las Vegas Mob History Lesson

Attribute: – Benjamin Siegel

Mobsters were violent, greedy criminals who took what they wanted and it didn’t matter the cost. They lived luxurious lives, sneaking behind the backs of good cops and paying off bad ones. These mafia crime lords were brilliant and reckless, paving the way for illegal operations of gambling, prostitution, and smuggling prohibited goods. As corrupt as the mafia was, we owe it to some of the (in)famous Las Vegas mobsters for making the city of Las Vegas what it is today.

Famous Las Vegas Mobsters & The Flamingo

There is a reason they call Las Vegas “Sin City”, and that reason dates all the way back to when the mob was in charge of things. Two of the most notorious mobsters responsible for making Las Vegas what it is today were Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky. In 1946, Meyer Lansky began showing interest in investing in Las Vegas casinos. He chose his pal, Bugsy Siegel, to oversee the construction process of the Valley’s first casino, The Flamingo.

Siegel came to Vegas with high hopes and wanted The Flamingo to be the finest building money could buy, but unfortunately, he got a little too carried away. As costs soared, his checks began bouncing. The Flamingo opened in 1946, but only the casino, lounge, restaurant, and theater were finished. Between construction noise, unfinished rooms, and the desert’s first air conditioning frequently failing, The Flamingo was losing money quickly. Although people attended the opening, they were welcomed by loud construction noises and unsightly drop cloths hanging from the ceilings. Gambling tables were operating, but the luxury hotel rooms for people to stay in were unfinished, leaving guests wary to stay the night.

Original 1946 Flamingo Hotel in Las VegasAttribute:

After two weeks, The Flamingo had $275,000 in losses and the entire operation shut down in late January, 1947. While other mob bosses wanted to “off” Siegel for losing so much of their money, Lansky begged them to give his friend a second chance – and they obliged. The Flamingo reopened in March of 1947. Siegel cracked down and did everything possible to turn the Flamingo into a success. With a little assistance from Lansky, The Flamingo finally began to earn some money. However, the profit was not enough for the mob bosses who Siegel borrowed money from, and they were tired of waiting.

The investors had made the final decision that Siegel was finished. On June 20, 1947, Bugsy Siegel was shot and killed in his home in Beverly Hills, California. On that night, an unknown assailant fired at him through the window with a .30 caliber military M1 carbine hitting him several times, including twice in the head. Just twenty minutes after Siegel’s death, Lansky’s associates walked into The Flamingo and took control of the hotel. No one was charged with killing Siegel, and the crime remains officially unsolved.

Where to Learn More about Las Vegas Mob History

The Mob Museum Las Vegas

Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky weren’t the only mobsters running amuck around the streets of Las Vegas. Plenty of gangs from New York and Chicago came flooding in to Las Vegas to grab hold of the potential our city possessed. Today, if you’re looking to find more information on the mafia groups that ran Sin City, what better place than the three-story Mob Museum located in Downtown Las Vegas?

Exterior View of Mob Museum Las VegasAttribute:

Just minutes from Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, you can immerse yourself in the history of organized crime from vintage Las Vegas. The Mob Museum Las Vegas is a restored courthouse from 1933 with interactive exhibits and actual artifacts with real stories about Las Vegas mob history and the events that took place. It’s the truest mob experience you could ask for without having to sleep with one eye open when you get home!

A Mob Story

If a museum isn’t quite what you came to Vegas for, then how about a show? The Plaza Hotel and Casino is featuring an original production called “A Mob Story” that entertains audiences through stunning choreography and visual effects influenced by gangsters and mob mistresses of the past that illustrates how the mob made Las Vegas with.

A Mob Story was created and directed by legendary producer, Emmy and Golden Globe award winner, Jeff Kutash and is narrated by “The Prince of the Mafia”, Michael Franzese. There are also special appearances from former mayor and mob attorney, Oscar Goodman. You can purchase your tickets here, and even upgrade to the Godfather Dinner & Show Package that offers menu items like skirt steak and Italian desserts.

Next time you are visiting Las Vegas, make some time for a history lesson. With perks such as a speakeasy and a steak dinner, it’s hard not to enjoy learning all about the Las Vegas mob history that shaped Sin City. We promise this will be a lesson worth taking!

Golden Gate Casino grand opening on the first floor of the then Hotel Sal Sagev in 1955

Las Vegas Firsts at Golden Gate Hotel & Casino


Golden Gate Hotel & Casino’s legacy began when it first opened its doors back in 1906 at One Fremont Street. Golden Gate Hotel Las Vegas’ history spans the birth of Las Vegas, the Roaring 20s, Prohibition, the iconic Rat Pack era and has been reborn for the 21st century. Its prime location under the bright lights of the Fremont Street Experience provides an unparalleled Las Vegas experience, where present day extravagance merges with a fascinating past. This historic property keeps the old Vegas spirit alive with its distinctive charm and energetic atmosphere.

Golden Gate Hotel & Casino: A Brief History

The birth of Las Vegas came when the land for Golden Gate (previously Hotel Nevada) was purchased at an auction at the corner of Fremont and Main Street on May 15, 1905. The price for the prime Vegas real estate? A mere $1,750. In 1906, the first casino in Las Vegas opened its doors to the public. The local newspaper, the Las Vegas Age, published the guest register on its front page and described it as a “first-class” hotel, “as comfortable as any other hostelry found anywhere,” with “large” rooms (10’ x 10’), electric lighting, ventilation and steam-heat radiators. The railroad boom brought about gambling, alcohol and wild women. While room and board was only $1 when the hotel first opened, alcohol and gambling were extra.

Golden Gate Hotel in the former Hotel Nevada in 1906.attribute:–casino_n_1954754.html?slideshow=true#gallery/255772/0

In 1910, gambling was outlawed in the state of Nevada and the casino’s roulette and poker tables were forced into retirement. Fremont Street was paved in 1925, as Ford Model As and Franklin Sedans slowly began to edge horse drawn buggies out. In 1931, gambling was legalized in Nevada again, and its gaming tables sprung back into action. The hotel changed its name to “Sal Sagev”, Las Vegas spelled backwards, and began its first expansion. While the rest of the United States suffered during the Great Depression, the old Vegas economy was booming due to an influx of workers in town to build the Hoover Dam. After a long absence, gambling and alcohol came back to Las Vegas with a vengeance. But Prohibition never stopped Vegas, anyway! Many years later, after Prohibition had ended, construction workers found hidden whiskey bottles in the walls of Golden Gate, which are now on display in the hotel’s lobby.

 In 1931, the Hotel Nevada was renamed the Sal Sagev.attribute:–casino_n_1954754.html?slideshow=true#gallery/255772/2

Golden Gate Hotel & Casino’s official history began in 1955 when a group of Italian-Americans visited Las Vegas from San Francisco. The original partners include Italo Ghelfi, Robert Picardo, Al Durante, Leo Massaro, Dan Fiorito and restaurateur Tiny Naylor. Italo, the team’s gaming pioneer, established a lively reputation while managing the casino for the next 40 years. In 1964, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino underwent another expansion to conceal the historical exterior and achieve a more modernized look.

Golden Gate Hotel & Casino: Firsts

As the city’s original casino, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino brought about many Las Vegas “firsts”, including:

-1905: Land for Golden Gate (previously Hotel Nevada) is purchased, making it the first casino in Las Vegas.

-1907: Las Vegas’ first telephone is installed at Golden Gate.

-1927: The hotel installs a large outdoor electric sign – a precursor of the neon lights to come to Fremont Street and later, the entire city of Las Vegas.

-1950s: Golden Gate’s partners employed a creative surveillance system using two-way mirrors above the gaming pit to detect cheating. This surveillance system is no longer used but can still be seen today.

-1959: Starting a true Las Vegas tradition, Golden Gate brings the shrimp cocktail to the city at a bargain price of just 50 cents. Locals continue to vote it “Best of Las Vegas” year after year.

-1960s: Golden Gate Hotel & Casino was the original hangout for Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin.

Golden Gate Hotel & Casino: A Modern History

Golden Gate Hotel Las Vegas restored its building back to its historical appearance when Italo’s sons, Craig and Mark, bought out the former partners in 1990. In 1995, The Fremont Street Experience shut down vehicle traffic on the street and transformed the world’s most distinguished neon street into a pedestrian mall with the biggest video screen on the globe (it’s 10 stories tall and spans 4 blocks!). The Fremont Street Experience offers a multi-sensory light show choreographed to booming, state-of-the-art sound.

Golden Gate Casino being stripped of its mid-60s paneling in 1990.attribute:

In 2012, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino underwent its first major expansion in 50 years, merging modern design with its illustrious history. It now features a 35,000-square-foot luxury tower with 16 suites, an extended gaming floor with a high-limit pit highlighting its signature dancing dealers, and a new lobby displaying its historical artifacts. In 2017, Golden Gate continued its expansion, nearly doubling the size of the casino. They added a dramatic entry way on Fremont Street Experience and extended OneBar at One Fremont Street.

 Lively atmosphere at the Fremont Street Experienceattribute:

This landmark property in downtown Las Vegas has remained true to its vintage Vegas character. Experience this historical hotel for yourself and see all that the Fremont Street Experience has to offer.

7 Must-Visit Destinations That Embrace Vegas’ Glamorous History

Vegas is a city steeped in history and teeming with stories from the past. While there are countless modern marvels to be enjoyed during a visit, the city’s nostalgic glamour makes it unique. Though many attractions of the past have been replaced and updated, there are a few spots to visit if you want to experience the Las Vegas of the past in the present.

1 – Bar Prohibition

Cocktail served at Bar Prohibition in Las Vegas.attribute:

Located in downtown Vegas, Bar Prohibition in the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino is an escape to the past while also expressing the Las Vegas history. The original bar was the beloved hangout of thirsty pioneers of the last frontier, rebels of the roaring 20’s, and members of the Rat Pack like Frank, Sammy, and Dean. Since 1906, the bar (and Golden Gate Hotel & Casino) has served as a place to let loose and have fun. Transport yourself to the past as you’re immersed in a historic Vegas hangout.

2 – The Neon Museum

Signs included in the tour at the Neon Museum.

If you’re looking for an authentic, up-close view of the Vegas aesthetic through the years, The Neon Museum is your destination. The museum features various signage and other types of relics from Vegas’s flashy beginnings and knowledgeable tour guides have a plethora of stories and facts to go along with each piece. Visiting The Neon Museum is a great daytime activity that will give you a well-rounded perspective of Vegas.

3 – Jubilee

Performers at Jubilee in Las Vegas.attribute:

This show is a Vegas classic. Even with its new makeover, Jubilee embodies everything Old Las Vegas is known for. This display of glamorous showmanship will transport you back to the 80’s when the show opened. The captivating costumes and nostalgic choreography keep the spirit of the original show and the history of Las Vegas alive.

4 – Golden Steer Steakhouse

Interior of the Golden Steer Steakhouse.attribute:

If you’re searching for an amazing steak and a Vegas historical experience, visit Golden Steer Steakhouse. Founded in 1958, this steakhouse was favorited by icons like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Though some updates have been made to the restaurant decor, the principles of fine dining at Golden Steer have never wavered. If fact, some of the staff has been here for over 30 years, adding to the historical charm of this classic spot.

5 – Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

Representation of Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.

Erected in 1959, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign has become an iconic symbol of the city. Seen in countless movies and in every souvenir shop, it’s safe to say the sign is one of the most recognizable landmarks. In 2008, the city added a small parking lot to accommodate the thousands of picture-taking visitors eager to snap their shot of the sign. It was added to the State Register of Historic Places in 2013 and has undergone minimal changes since its installation.

6 – Golden Gate Casino

Exterior of Golden Gate Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.attribute:

Palpable nostalgia greets you as you walk through the doors of the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino. The casino made its debut in 1906 and continues to facilitate classic Vegas fun. Modern updates adorn the expertly preserved space, making it easy to both appreciate the past and enjoy the present. While most original casinos and hotels have been replaced, Golden Gate’s authentic, classic feel helps maintain its status as a staple in the city’s downtown area.

7 – Battista’s Hole in the Wall

Sign for Battista's Italian Restaurant in Las Vegas.attribute:

Sit down to a delicious Italian dinner just like the Rat Pack used to do. Nestled in a modest building near the LINQ Promenade, Battista’s Hole in the Wall serves up some of the best Italian food in the city. This place trades glamour for gourmet, as each dish is prepared traditionally and with expert care. The full dinner experience includes a soup or salad, bread, an entree, all you can drink wine, and a hot beverage for dessert. This historical place in Las Vegas has pretty much remained consistent with its offerings since it’s opening in 1970 – so much so that the same accordion player, affectionately known as Gordy, will serenade you as you eat. This place is a must-visit.

Today’s Entertainment Capital of the World as we know it is the result of a long, rich history. Las Vegas was born out of the appreciation of the good life and its unapologetic glamour made the city a hot spot for A-listers and music legends alike. People from all over the world flocked to experience the flashing lights and buzzing energy of the city for themselves. These days, Vegas continues to thrive and although advancements and developments keep the city state-of-the-art, the original magic is still very much alive. A visit to historic destinations like Bar Prohibition or Battista’s Hole in the Wall will take you right back to Vegas’s not-so-humble beginnings.