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The History of Casinos

The first casinos in the US were in the Mississippi river towns, having sprung up after poker became popular onboard the steamboats of the early 1800s.

It wasn't until the 1940s that casinos really got a foothold when Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel organized casino games for the Mafia in Las Vegas. In order to attract wealthy players, Siegel arranged the building of a prestigious hotel combined casino, 'The Flamingo', which opened in 1946. Celebrities of the time were invited to the opening but builders' deadlines hadn't been met and with the building unfinished, guests had nowhere to sleep. Needless to say, 'The Flamingo' was a flop and Siegel was killed as a result.

Other gangsters soon invested in the town and by the mid 50s several huge entertainment complexes that included casinos, hotels, and show-bars were successfully attracting rich gamblers from throughout the States and other parts of the world. At this point the whole town was almost entirely owned and run by the Mafia.

Elsewhere in the US, corrupt government officials allowed certain casinos to continue operating. Al Capone ran one of the most famous illegal casinos, 'The Big House' in Chicago, which was also the headquarters of a countrywide bookmaking operation.

In 1965, entrepreneur and multi-millionaire Howard Hughes was the first to take advantage of new laws that allowed corporations to own and operate casinos in Las Vegas. MGM, Hilton and several similar companies soon followed suit and within a few short years the Mafia had retreated, beaten by the financial might of the huge corporations.