An employee of Westgate Resorts, where we are staying, mentioned to us that it was owned by a man named David Siegel. I asked, “Is he a descendant of, or related to “Bugsy” Siegel?” He replied, “No, but yes, Las Vegas was built by the mafia.”
Las Vegas was established in 1905. We have seen a reproduction of a poster from that year offering “Lots from $100.” At that time the place was really a railroad town.
In 1931 the state of Nevada legalized gambling and the history of Las Vegas as a gambling location began with organized crime funding and managing the early casinos. Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel and Meyer Lansky were major figures in this. Siegel, who had been a hitman for the mob wanted to go “legit” and was heavily involved in the building of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino following the end of World War 2. Rivalries that are common in the world of crime and gangs existed then, plus Siegel made some bad mistakes which also made him some dangerous enemies. On 20 June 1947 he was sitting in the home of a friend in Beverly Hills reading the Los Angeles Times when an unknown gunman appeared at the window, fired an automatic weapon through the window and Bugsy died instantly in a hail of gunfire. No one was ever charged with the murder – the hitman finally became a hit himself.
Las Vegas remained basically a gambling destination for many years. Extremely cheap hotel accommodation and restaurant meals existed to attract people who would pay the real price at the gambling tables and slot machines. We drove through Las Vegas in 1982 and saw a sign outside a restaurant offering an eight ounce steak dinner for $1.99!
This began to change in 1989 when the Mirage Hotel was built and opened. It was the harbinger of a new trend of development that would turn Las Vegas into a major resort for not just gambling but shopping and family entertainment. People do not come here anymore just to gamble but to see and stay at the spectacular resort hotels, attend top quality shows and enjoy the Disney type activities that exist for families here. The former cheap prices have gone. For example, in 2003 we spent a few days here and paid $45.00 per night for pleasant accommodation at a hotel on “the strip.” That same hotel today is charging $149.00 per night Monday to Thursday and $249.00 per night at weekends for the same room.
Westgate Resorts gave us free tickets for a show of our choice in the Planet Hollywood complex which Westgate also owns. We chose Tribute to the Beatles and thoroughly enjoyed it. The audience consisted mainly of people who, like us, lived through the Beatle era and everyone entered into the spirit and music provided by four talented young musicians who played the roles of Paul, John, George and Ringo. The physical similarities were good too, particularly in the case of John Lennon who, although an American, spoke with an exceptionally good Liverpool accent. Being reminded of the superb melodies written and played the Beatles was a very enjoyable experience. After the show we had an opportunity to meet and talk to “Paul, John, George and Ringo.” We found them to be nice, modest and pleasant young men.
There were heavy, noisy thunderstorms during last night with torrential rain pounding on the roof and grounds outside. Some streets in the town have been flooded but we are all right here. The local TV station earlier this morning was advising people to stay at home as more storms were expected during the morning, tapering off around noon. It is 11:45am as I type this bulletin and although the weather is overcast, things seem to be brightening and it is dry.
Enough for now. I will add some pictures which we hope you will enjoy.