June 3, 2017   Saturday

Today, I spoke to local readers at the Clark County library in Las Vegas. My hour-and-a-half talk was about the gangsters who built 80% of the Las Vegas Strip resorts during the two decades from the Flamingo in 1946 to Caesars Palace in 1966. The theme was from my “30 Illegal Years To The Strip”. It covered these gangsters’ criminal careers during Prohibition and then their elegant but illegal casinos across the country, until they and their associates moved to Las Vegas.

In addition to explaining what these Strip pioneers actually did and did not do during their criminal careers and what their values were, I presented the great myths that have developed about their backgrounds. I described the many major, serious inaccuracies in most books about these men’s careers that are well documented by the factual sources in my book.

I offered strong evidence that the gang leaders of this era talked like normal people in private meetings and not like the cartoon-like threatening bullies they are always portrayed as in Hollywood’s gangster movies and TV shows. In this regard, I plugged KC Detective Gary Jenkins’ book “Leaving Vegas” that contains the transcripts of FBI’s bugged conversations of the Mafia leaders involved in the large casino skim, which was fictionalized in the movie “Casino”. While these Midwest Mafia leaders were frustrated with their Las Vegas casino management, these bosses in private talked like normal people with no threats or anger. Earlier this year, Gary played the actual FBI bugged recordings at this library to show how normally all these men talked and what they actually said, when they met with each other in private.

I also discussed the many serious errors in the two AMC series of “The Making of the Mob”, both for New York and for Chicago. I especially pointed out this series’ complete reversal of the actual role of the Chicago Mob in the Las Vegas casino industry from the 1950s to the 1980s, as presented in the final episode 8.

After my presentation, I answered numerous questions about various aspects of the history of the Las Vegas casino industry to this very inquisitive group. Then, I autographed both “30 Illegal Years To The Strip” and “All Against The Law”. I am most thankful to everyone who attended for their welcome applause at the end of my presentation, and their warmth during our conversations, while I signed books.


April 27, 2017   Thursday

I just finished my fifth radio interview with Morgan White Jr. on his clear-channel broadcast from Boston that reaches the eastern two-thirds of the country. Because of his great knowledge about the history of the Las Vegas gambling industry, it was a wide-ranging hour and a half discussion. We covered some of the great casino operators like Moe Dalitz, some of the main underworld hidden interests like Sam Giancana and Nick Civella, and why so many long-term Las Vegas Strip casino operators wanted to sell out, when tycoon Howard Hughes arrived in town interested in purchasing resort casinos.

Morgan and I discussed how the Sopranos TV series characters were so unrealistic, and how different the gangland leaders of the 1920s through 1970s were from the way they are typically presented by Hollywood movies and television shows. This was the era before America held primary elections, and many of the biggest gang leaders were major influences on their district voters. These mobsters were so effective because they were personable and helpful with their constituencies, rather than being the bullies they are always depicted as.


February 17, 2017   Thursday

I just completed an hour interview on the Crime Beat radio show at ArtistFirst.com. Each week, it reaches about 200,000 true-crime enthusiasts around the world. Ron Chepesiuk is a very knowledgeable host. A former university professor, he has written several award-winning true-crime books. He is an energetic and challenging interviewer. We covered a great deal about my historical research background and casino management career, as well as the early history of organized crime and the initial Las Vegas Strip gambling resorts. Thank you, Ron. I am most appreciative.


January 10, 2017   Tuesday

I listened to a most interesting talk this evening by author Gary Jenkins. He described how the F.B.I. brought down the huge Las Vegas Strip casino skim operations that were directed by multiple Mafia gangs, and which were fictionalized in the movie Casino (1995). Gary joined the F.B.I.’s surveillance teams in the initial stages of their “Strawman” skimming investigation. At that time, Gary was a Kansas City Police Detective, where he served for twenty-five years, and he now produces the true-crime podcast Gangland Wire Crime Stories.

Gary worked diligently to obtain the FBI’s recordings from their legal telephone wiretaps and bugs of conversations by Kansas City Mafia boss Nick Civella with his lieutenant Carl “Tuffy” DeLuna and other cohorts, and with his Las Vegas casino operators. Tonight, Gary played many of these taped conversations for his audience at the Clark County Library in Las Vegas. His new book Leaving Vegas: The True Story of How the F.B.I. Wiretaps Ended Mob Domination of Las Vegas Casinos is filled with the FBI’s transcripts.

These recorded conversations are very important to my research of organized-crime as it bears on the Nevada casino industry. Not only are the topics these mobsters discussed very relevant to me, but also how these gangsters discussed them. These recordings illustrate how gangsters really talk in private conversations with their cohorts and with the people they do business.

While Hollywood movies and TV shows invariably present these gangsters as bullying, threatening, and intimidating in virtually every scene, in these recordings, every underworld leader talked exactly like a normal person. Even though these hoods were deeply concerned about, and frustrated by, the actions of others, they did not make a single threat, never mentioned the use of violence, and did not even express any anger. As I listened to the FBI’s recordings, I focused on the tonality of the speakers as much as their subject matter. Their tenor and attitude was always casual and informative, identical to the way normal businessmen and friends talk.

In my research, I found every major gang leader from the 1920s through the 1980s talked normally and usually politely. Almost all of these top gangsters were in power before the advent of primary elections, when each political party selected a single candidate for each office privately behind closed doors. Many of the top gangsters in this era were powerful political leaders in their districts, and they always dealt with their voters and their problems helpfully and with understanding. Besides, what politician, law enforcer, prosecutor, judge, businessman, or union leader would seek out and make a business arrangement with a gang leader who constantly threatened and bullied them like a stereotypical Hollywood gangster? The dark, evil side of these criminals surfaced for the world to see only when they were threatened, or when those who exploited or took advantage of innocent victims, or attacked gangland competitors, were carrying out their terrible crimes.

Gary Jenkins responded to this Blog post. This former long-time Detective, who spent his career fighting organized crime, agreed with my point above but with very different and such effective imagery. “That is exactly what I want folks to understand, the skillful mob bosses are not cartoon figures. They are real people who talk and react like most of us. They make thoughtful decisions after careful consideration.” Wow! I had never thought about Hollywood’s presentation of gangsters as cartoon characters, but unfortunately that is really the way our film industry, during its first century of existence, has depicted the horrible exploitation and brutality of our worst criminal element.


December 27, 2016   Tuesday

A key figure in 30 Illegal Years To The Strip is Chicago and Miami illegal casino operator
Julian “Potatoes” Kaufman. In Miami, he brought in Meyer Lansky and Jimmy Blue Eyes as investors. Julian’s grandson Richard Kaufman, who has also researched his grandfather’s career, emailed me his review of my book today, and it follows.

Having read numerous books about the era described in “30 Illegal Years to the Strip”, I was impressed with the author’s insight into the characters that made that era. This book presents a unique perspective, due to the author’s voluminous research, about some previously well covered ground. The myth of Murder Inc was eye opening because all the previous books that I read made it some nefarious group but this was not accurate. My opinion about Thomas Dewey “The Great Crime Fighter” certainly was altered after this book. Having read a great deal about political corruption during this time period, I was still amazed at not only the depth of it, but how corrupt politicians utilized organized crime to line their pockets as well as pursue their political agenda. The author’s experience in the gambling industry helped make the operations of the illegal casinos easier to understand.

On a personal note, my grandfather was Julian “Potatoes” Kaufman, who is one of the key characters in this book. During Prohibition he ran upscale casinos in Bugs Moran’s territory on the North Side of Chicago and after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Al Capone’s territory south of Chicago. After Prohibition my grandfather made a deal with a sheriff to open illegal casino gambling near Miami and he later brought in Meyer Lansky as his partner. I thank the author for keeping Potatoes memory alive.

Since my grandfather passed before I was born, I was always intrigued by my father’s stories. I have researched Julian through the years and this book not only has the most factual  information ever written about him but has new material that was previously unknown to me. This book also debunks many myths.

Anyone who is interested in the origins of Las Vegas gambling or wants to learn about the growth of organized crime or political corruption during that era needs to get this book. I thought that I knew a lot after years of research but the knowledge in this book is indeed impressive. The author’s writing style puts you into the action not only as an observer but as a participant, since it reads like a novel.

Richard Kaufman