If there’s anything we’ve learned since newspaper photos of Bugsy Siegel’s bullet-riddled body were splashed across newspapers and magazines in the 1940s it is that the Mob is tough on crime. Well, more precisely, they are tough on anyone who commits a crime against them, especially theft. Nothing makes a bunch of crooks’ madder than someone stealing from their ill-gotten booty.
Al W. Moe’s latest book is an intensely researched, well-written and entertaining expose’ of the world of crime ruthlessly engaged daily by the Chicago Outfit. Although Vegas and the Chicago Outfit starts in the Windy City at the turn of the 20th century and details how crime gangs fought over Black Hand victims, Prohibition booze buyers, and unionization efforts by local workers, his story centers on gaming.
Author Moe details how Chicago’s organized crime bosses got rich and infamous for their bootlegging and booze wars but also turned huge profits in police protected gaming joints all over the city. Gaming wins were as big a part of the Outfit’s income stream as brothels and loan sharking combined. Chicago casinos and bookie joints were virtual money machines and made politicians and judicial members rich with hush money as they turned their hands to whomever paid the best.
You probably know that gambling and bribes go back thousands of years, and Chicago bosses like Johnny Torrio, Al Capone, and Frank Nitti padded their nests with slot machine profits. And why shouldn’t they? All the major slot machine manufacturers were made in the city and factories spread across Illinois! But it took Tony Accardo and Sam Giancana to see that the future was Las Vegas, not Joliet, Cicero, and Chicago.
The Name of the Game is Skim
Although thousands of businesses in Chicago fudged their numbers and juked the IRS out of income taxes, the Chicago Outfit hired bookkeepers, accountants, and plenty of lawyers to find new and inventive ways of hiding income. But nothing worked as well as skimming.
According to Moe, by the time the Chicago Outfit was muscling-in on Nevada casinos through theft, coercion, arson, and the occasional outright purchase of gaming joints, they had a hundred ways to skim off the top to keep taxes low and money flowing back to Chi-town bosses.
Bugsy Siegel, Moey Sedway, David Berman, and Ice-Pick Willie Alderman were all known killers and kidnappers, but Nevada welcomed them like rich, long-lost relatives and the casinos thrived. And that’s before the big casinos like the Flamingo, Sands, and Caesars Palace were built. And before all of them were heavily skimmed to the tune of millions of dollars each year.
Moe continues his page-turning stories through the 1960s and Howard Hughes, Chicago Outfit fights with Presidents, Teamsters Union loans, disappearing casino owners, the FBI, the CIA, and more. It’s a fun ride, an eye-opening true saga, and a scary but entertaining part of cultural and historical organized crime that’s as fascinating today as it was fifty-years ago. The writing is concise in sections, but with enough details to take the reader back to a time where crime was second nature for the crooks and a daily fear for residents of Chicago and Las Vegas.
While we concentrate on Kindle editions, Vegas and the Chicago Outfit is available as a 279-page paperback for just $14.95. The Kindle edition is slightly shorter as the reference section has been removed – $4.95 for 3350 kb. Both editions include some great photos of Outfit crime bosses and early Chicago and Las Vegas.