Vegas is a top tourist destination. It’s also home to gambling industry legends who helped shape it.
This essay will discuss these Las Vegas history makers. Learn about:
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Caesars Palace and The Sands were built.
Legends that shaped Las Vegas
On February 28, 1906, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Benjamin Siegelbaum became Bugsy Siegel. He joined organized crime as a child in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He was convicted of murdering fellow mobster Harry Greenberg in 1929 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, although he was freed on parole after four years due to syphilis.
In 1931, he married Virginia Hill, who managed his gambling activities in California and Nevada and protected him from other gangsters who wanted him dead because they were scared Bugsy would take over their territory. After buying land from mobster Billy Wilkerson, who owned The Hollywood Reporter newspaper, they opened The Flamingo Hotel & Casino in 1936. Wilkerson sold his shares once construction began to avoid paying taxes on them since it was considered “income” rather than capital gains, which meant less money going into government coffers if sold within five years.
Vegas legend Steve Wynn. He built the 1989 Mirage, one of the first resorts to use artificial jungle plants and trees. He established Wynn Resorts, which constructed Encore Las Vegas and Encore Macau.
Wynn is credited with reviving Las Vegas after the 1970s and 1980s, when crime was high and many businesses left town due to low tourism numbers due to competition from Atlantic City and other East Coast gambling cities. Since Wynn’s success, many developers—including Sheldon Adelson—have built new casinos on The Strip or elsewhere in town.
Vegas legend Sheldon Adelson. He studied business administration at the University of Maryland after growing up in Massachusetts. He earned a master’s degree from Harvard Business School before joining the Korean War. After being honorably discharged, he returned home and worked for several enterprises before building The Sands Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
The Venetian Resort & Casino, which opened in 1999, and The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, which opened two years later, built on this success. These two properties have made Sheldon Adelson one of America’s richest men, but they’ve also given him access to exclusive social circles!
In 1915, Fresno, California, birthed Kirk Kerkorian. He joined the CCC aged 16. After the CCC, he drove trucks and boxed before returning to school at 21.
He founded Trans International Airlines (TIA) in 1934 to fly World War II passengers from Los Angeles to El Centro and Palm Springs. After TIA merged with Western Airlines in 1950, Kerkorian began buying stock in Las Vegas hotels, including The Flamingo Hotel & Casino, which opened on December 26, 1946; Sands Hotel; Desert Inn; Riviera; Caesars Palace; Circus Circus Enterprises Inc.; MGM Grand Hotels Inc.; Mirage Resorts Inc.; Mandalay Resort Group Inc.; Park Place Entertainment Corporation (now Caesars Entertainment Corporation); and
On July 25, 1916, Chicago birthed Jay Sarno. He played football and basketball at Hollywood High School after moving to LA at 11. He studied design at USC’s School of design from 1937 to 1942 and graduated with honors in business administration from USC in 1936.
Sarno was an assistant superintendent on projects including the Pan-Pacific Auditorium (now LACMA) and the Beverly Hills Hotel before joining his father’s construction company. He became president of Jay Sarno Construction Company Inc., which built several casinos in Nevada and California from 1954 to 2002, closing after its founder’s death at age 94 due to financial issues. indirectly connected
Early 1900s Tony Cornero. He loved sailing as a child in California. He was a fisherman and ship captain as a young guy.
Tony and Rose went to Las Vegas in 1931 and founded a modest casino called The Meadows on Fremont Street (now Las Vegas Boulevard). The Meadows was one of many casinos created during this time by businessmen who had made their riches in mining or agriculture and wanted to run a national gambling establishment. Tony soon decided he needed more than one casino and bought land across from The Meadows to develop Stardust Hotel & Casino (now Stardust).
Tony Cornero’s professional and personal legacy lives on: Tony Cornero was married three times and had children with each woman. His children had families of their own, and today hundreds of people are descended from him!
Billy Wilkerson, born 1908, founded the Flamingo Hotel and Casino. He shaped modern Las Vegas as a gambling business leader.
This page will discuss Billy’s early life, career, and legacy in Las Vegas history.
The Rat Pack was a 1960s and 1970s Las Vegas act. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop founded it.
Las Vegas entertainment was shaped by the Rat Pack. Many performers have formed groups to honor these legends while adding their own style and flair.