Friday, October 24, 2008

Researching Las Vegas

Researching Vegas is always a little . . . weird. Especially when you're researching gangster activities in Las Vegas.

The reason is that the people who write the books are often locals or semi-locals who use their insider connections to bring stories about gangland Vegas to the book. Almost all of them - and all of the dozen or so I've read of late - are basically told from interviews. Very much, "so-and-so told me this story".

The stories get a little strange when talking about the mob run casinos of the 40s through 70s. (In the 80s, the mob better learned how to hide behind corporations like the Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts. If you think the skim isn't happening and the mob's out of Vegas, well, I guess you're entitled to your opinion, hehe.) At the time, it was pretty open that the mob was in town and the stories reflect that.

But almost uniformly, the casino employees from that time will talk about how nice the gangsters were and, bizarrely, how Las Vegas in those days didn't have much crime - even when they were talking about the crimes the mobsters committed. Several times I've read these interviews where the person would go, "In those days there wasn't any crime in Las Vegas" and then go "people who were caught stealing or cheating would be taken to what we called the torture room and afterwards they'd have a cast and a limp". Like the numerous assaults that the mobsters were committing - that these former employees were acknowledging - was somehow compatible with a town with "no crime". Not to mention the skim, itself, which was a daily theft of millions of dollars to support organized crime.

Even more than the stories themselves, what I find weird is how people rationalize working for the gangsters like the gangsters were somehow *good* for Las Vegas.

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