Mob Museum Celebrates Legalized Gambling

The Mob Museum in Las Vegas is presenting a spotlight on legalized gambling on March 11 and 25 at 7 pm. The two-part event will feature speakers highlighting the 90-year history of gambling in Nevada.

Wide Open

The special series and exhibition titled “Wide Open: 90 Years of Legal Gambling in Nevada” opens on March 11 at 7 pm with two speakers: Geoff Schumacher, museum vice president of exhibits and programs, and UNLV associate history professor Michael Green.

A second night of speaking takes place on March 25 and features former MGM Resorts executive Alan Feldman and UNLV professor and author David G. Schwartz.

According to the Mob Museum website, the March 11 event is titled “Wide Open Part 1: 90 Years of Legal Gambling in Nevada: Becoming American’s Playground, 1931-1960.” This session will “chart the gambling industry’s rise from legalization in 1931 through the Mob-controlled golden age of the 1950s.”

Part 1 in the series highlights the “turbulent and Mob-infused history of Nevada’s dominant industry,” from its humble beginnings in Downtown Las Vegas to the development of the Las Vegas Strip.

Legal gambling in Las Vegas began in 1931 and was concentrated downtown. Between 1941 and 1958, the desert highway leading south to Los Angeles became populated with 13 resort hotels. This area became what is now the Las Vegas Strip.

In 1946, mob gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel opened the Flamingo and ushered in the Mob-controlled casino era of the 1950s, featured in the Martin Scorsese film Casino.

Wide Open Part 2

The second part of the series is titled “Wide Open Part 2: 90 Years of Legal Gambling in Nevada: Becoming a Global Destination, 1961-2021.” The second part of the series opens March 25, 2021 at 7 pm. Hailed as the era of “brazen entrepreneurs, dangerous mobsters, and legendary entertainers.”

Legendary entertainers like the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.) crooned in the glitzy caverns built by these brazen entrepreneurs and dangerous mobsters. Bugsy Siegel started the Vegas entertainment tradition when he personally flew in big-name artists to perform at the Flamingo to draw visitors.

Bugsy built it, and they came. The droves of visitors continued to put Las Vegas on the map, pulling even more legendary performers like Liberace, Elvis, and more.

By the time the megaresort era in the 1990s set in, artist residencies were chugging along nicely as the major entertainment aspect of Las Vegas. Artist residencies have raked in billions for entertainers and their venue hosts over the years.

In-person tickets to both parts of Wide Open have sold out, but you can watch both events for free in a special live stream offered on the Mob Museum website.

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