Siegel's Legacy on Gambling

Skepticism--- about the new hotels disregarded Las Vegas' potential for growth as its bonds to Los Angeles solidified.

The downtown' area proved successful during the war, and continued to thrive afterwards, but it actually contained little room for further expansion.

The inundation of the district from 1940 to 1945 had demonstrated its limits as a resort center, for overcrowding threatened to choke off some of the tourist business.

Since the downtown had been laid out as a railroad townsite, it had a diminishing appeal to the ever-increasing numbers of auto tourists in the mid-twentieth century.

They were also closer to the future site of the Las Vegas airport. The Strip hotels, like the automotive and aeronautic vehicles to which they beckoned, were self-contained.

They represented liberation from the congestion of the old railroad town.

While the downtown district remained tied to the past of the railroad and the last frontier, the roomier Strip came to be designed along more modern lines after World War II.

El Rancho Vegas and Last Frontier first suggested the location of the Strip, but the Flamingo Hotel completed in 1946-1947, constituted the first full-blown resort complex with a modernistic bearing that distinguished it completely from the rest of Las Vegas and set a new precedent.

Around the end of the Second World War, may talked about erecting large hotels in southern Nevada, but only Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel proved willing and able to marshal the necessary resources in a time of scarcity and delay in the construction business.

Siegel had risen to prominence in the East Coast world of organized crime during the 1920s and early 1930s.

Dispatched from New York and Miami to Los Angeles in the mid-thirties, where he tightened underworld connections, ran offshore gambling ships, and took over West Coast bookmaking.

Siegel stumbled upon the potential of the gambling resort in the early 1940s and persuaded his eastern partners to finance a new resort hotel there.

Recognizing the opportunity to make legal and respectable a lucrative underworld specialty, he set out to construct the Flamingo with Caribbean motifs in mind.

Drawing upon Miami hotels as examples, but also demonstrating his accumulation to Los Angeles, Siegel erected a spacious, low-slung, glass-doored luxury hotel, appointed inside with the most modern and comfortable furnishings.

Operating outside the monetary and legal restraints that confined others, Siegel completed the hotel in 1947, and invited guests to 'Come As You Are to America's Monte Carlo'.

But he did not live long afterwards to enjoy it. Perhaps in part, because of delays and cost overruns that arose during construction, or because of early losses suffered by the Flamingo casino, gunmen executed Benjamin Siegel in a Beverly Hills mansion in June 1947.

Likewise surrounded outside by lush lawns and tropical gardens installed, with characteristic Las Vegas timing, the night before the casino opened.

The exterior appearance of the building spoke loudest of all, for the hotel stood out from the strange and arid landscape in a manner that no ranch style inn could begin to match.