Bugsy Siegel: Former Owner of the Flamingo Casino & Hotel
Bugsy Siegel has early connections to the mob that can be
traced back as far as his teenage years, which in part resulted
in his seemingly endless criminal record. He managed illegal
gambling operations, stolen from other mobs, and murdered many
We finally were able to see him turn his life around when he
opened the famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino, which is still a
phenomenal resort today. Unfortunately, one’s past always creeps
up on them and for Siegel the price of his past was fatal.
How a Life of Crime Started
Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was born February 28th, 1906 in
Brooklyn, New York to a poor Jewish family who had recently
moved there from Ukraine. His parents barely made any money and
they had five children to support, including Siegel. Due to the
poor conditions he had growing up, Siegel was determined to be
wealthy some day.
Unfortunately, though, he started associating with a bad
group of people. Early on, he dropped out of school and joined a
gang that resided on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. At first,
he only really would steal for the group but things changed
drastically when Moe Sedway took him under his wing.
The Evolution of the Bugs and Meyer Mob
By the time he was twenty years old, Siegel had a criminal
record that included armed robbery, rape, and murder. After
Siegel was introduced to Meyer Lansky, he developed an interest
in illegal gambling. Siegel and Lansky formed the Bugs and Meyer
Mob, a band of coldblooded Jewish mobsters which handled
contracts for the various bootleg gangs operating in the city.
Siegel’s main responsibility was to be a hit man for other
crime families in the area. They recruited quite a few more men
to be part of the gang, as they needed as many men as possible
to hijack the liquor cargoes of rival gangs as well.
Siegel made connections with Charles “Lucky” Luciano and
Frank Costello, future leaders of the Genovese crime family.
Siegel and three other gunmen from his gang were responsible for
the death of Joe Masseria, another infamous mobster, who Luciano
wanted killed. Soon after that, Siegel formed Murder Inc., which
basically was just a group of highly skilled hit men.
It was around this time that the Fabrizzos brothers attempted
to assassinate both Siegel and Lansky, but immediately after the
attack, Siegel hunted them both down, killed them, and left them
in their own cold blood.
Somehow in between his murders, Siegel had time to maintain
his relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Esta Krakower,
whom he married in January of 1929. They went on to have two
daughters: Millicent and Barbara.
A Change of Scenery
It was because of his family that Siegel was ready for a
change, so he moved them to California. His mission was to
develop gambling rackets with Los Angeles crime family boss,
Jack Dragna, and it wasn’t long before their group was bringing
in over $500,000 a day from the bookmaking wire operations
Siegel also controlled several offshore casinos and a major
prostitution ring in California at the time. Realizing how
important it was to have connections, he moved to Hollywood to
entice various movie stars into supporting him financially.
He took over several local unions including the Screen Extras
Guild and the Los Angeles Teamsters, forcing studios to pay him
off if they wanted him to leave peacefully. In less than a year,
Siegel took out over $400,000 from various movie stars in the
area. One movie star in particular, Virginia Hill, caught his
attention and it wasn’t long before he left his family to be
Flamingo Hotel & Casino
In 1945, the new couple moved to Las Vegas, as Siegel was on
the lookout for a good business opportunity. He bought the
Flamingo Hotel from William R. Wilkerson and started doing some
major renovations, as he wanted an extravagant building no
matter what the cost. In less than two years, the Flamingo was
completed with a final price tag of $6 million which is
equivalent to about $60 million dollars in today’s age. Of
course this money had to come from somewhere and in this
instance it came from eastern crime syndicate.
The Flamingo’s grand opening was the day after Christmas in
1946. The casino, lounge, theater, and restaurant were all
combined in one truly elegant building. Several renowned
celebrities attended the opening including Charles Coburn,
Vivian Blaine, Brian Donlevy, and many more.
It wasn’t as successful of a night as Siegel had hoped it
would be though. The air conditioning didn’t work efficiently,
there were rooms that still weren’t quite finished, and the
lobby was filled with drop cloths to protect the floor from wet
Siegel became very irritated when he overheard customers
complain to the point where he became verbally abusive and
started throwing people out left and right. After two weeks, the
Flamingo gambling tables had lost him over a quarter million
dollars and it wasn’t long before they had to close their doors
Siegel finished the necessary improvements and in just a
little more than a month the hotel was reopened for business.
Profits started rolling in, but the mob bosses were breathing
down Siegel’s back as they weren’t seeing the numbers they were
A Quick End, but a Lasting Legacy
On the night of June 20th, 1947, as Siegel was sitting in his
home reading the newspaper, a gunman shot him multiple times
with a .30 caliber military M1 carbine. Still to this day,
police are unsure of who the assassin was. His murder remains a
mystery, as the police found it difficult to sift through the
hundreds of people who wanted to see him dead.
The day after Siegel’s death, photographs of his lifeless
body were published on the front page of the Los Angeles Herald
and in newspapers throughout the country, telling the story of
his tragic death. On the property at the Flamingo Hotel and
Casino nearby the resorts wedding chapel, sits Siegel’s memorial
to honor him upon his death.
His legacy lives on today and is often reflected in the
media. Moe Green, a character in one of most well known movies
from the 1970s movie, The Godfather, portrays Siegel very
accurately. In 1991, Siegel’s biography came to life as Warren
Beatty played the mobster in the movie, Bugsy. Most recently,
Benny Siegel appeared in the television series, Boardwalk
Empire, as a mere teenager.
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