When it opened in 1958, the Stardust was the largest on line casino resort in Las Vegas. It was operated by males related to Chicago and Cleveland crime syndicates. Courtesy of UNLV Particular Collections.
One among the Las Vegas Strip’s most iconic on line casino resorts opened 60 years ago as we speak. The Stardust was famend for its neon signage and topless showgirls – and infamous for its underworld connections.
Tony Cornero first conceived of the Stardust in the early 1950s. It will be the crowning achievement he sought following a checkered previous in the on line casino enterprise. Cornero, whose household moved to the United States from northern Italy when he was a toddler, had an extended historical past in Las Vegas. He was recent out of federal jail when Nevada legalized business playing in 1931. Cornero had finished nicely for himself in the rum-running enterprise in Southern California throughout Prohibition, however ran afoul of Uncle Sam on bootlegging costs. Whereas he was in jail, his brothers, Louis and Frank, opened the Meadows Membership, an ahead-of-its-time hotel-casino – with a band stage and stylish furnishings — removed from the hustle and bustle of the lowbrow playing joints on downtown’s Fremont Road.
Situated simply outdoors the metropolis limits the place Fremont Road merges into Boulder Freeway, the Meadows introduced a contact of glamour to the desert, and may need been a mannequin for self-contained casinos removed from the city core. However the Cornero brothers struggled as house owners. When a fireplace erupted in the on line casino, the Las Vegas Hearth Division refused to battle the blaze as a result of the Meadows was situated outdoors the metropolis limits. Left with a lodge and a burned-out on line casino constructing, the Corneros bought their curiosity in the property.
In 1938, Tony started working offshore playing ships in Southern California, together with one dubbed the S.S. Rex. Locals nicknamed him “The Admiral” for operating his floating casinos. Whereas his ships spelled success for Cornero – he reportedly took in $6 million a yr – California regulation prohibited on line casino playing. He maintained that since his vessels have been three miles out to sea, state and federal legal guidelines didn’t apply. However California Governor Earl Warren felt in a different way. So did the U.S. Supreme Courtroom, which dominated that his on line casino ships operated in state waters.
Cornero returned to Las Vegas in 1944 to hitch some companions in a small on line casino, the S.S. Rex, at the Apache Lodge on Fremont Road. However after a falling out together with his companions, Cornero left the S.S. Rex in 1946. That yr, again in Southern California, he launched one other on line casino ship off Lengthy Seashore, however the U.S. Coast Guard seized it, ending his nautical efforts there. In 1948, whereas assembly at his house in Beverly Hills with potential buyers in a on line casino undertaking in Mexico, a supposed deliveryman appeared at the door and shot Cornero in the stomach. Although critically wounded, he recovered, however the Mexican deal fell by means of.
Cornero, nonetheless optimistic, turned his eyes again to Las Vegas, this time with a dream of constructing the world’s largest on line casino, the Stardust.
The Securities and Trade Fee, alongside together with his penchant for high-stakes craps-playing, impeded however by no means stopped Cornero’s progress. Development of the Stardust, deliberate to have 1,000 lodge rooms, was properly on its approach in 1955. However the Nevada Gaming Fee, seeing Cornero’s background as unsuitable, refused to grant him a gaming license. So he inked a cope with buyers headed by former Los Angeles unlawful gambler Milton B. “Farmer” Web page to lease the Stardust’s lodge and on line casino for an unheard-of $500,000 per 30 days.
However destiny quickly turned away from Cornero once more. On July 31, 1955, he gambled away $37,000 on a craps desk at the Desert Inn. Whereas in a heated argument with a on line casino supplier over a $25 chip, Cornero suffered an enormous coronary heart assault and fell lifeless “before he hit the floor,” the coroner later said. Development of the Stardust was almost three-quarters full.
John “Jake the Barber” Issue, brother of cosmetics big Max Issue and a person who was reportedly not a stranger to the Chicago Outfit, bought the still-unfinished Stardust and introduced in Moe Dalitz and the administration of the Desert Inn to run the on line casino.
The Stardust opened in a blaze of fireworks on July 2, 1958. With its 1,000 visitor rooms, it was greater than any lodge beforehand opened in Las Vegas. Measurement, moderately than fashion, was the lodge’s most outstanding function. Its 16,000-square-foot on line casino was immense for its time, and the 140-foot bar that ran alongside a lot of its east wall was the forerunner of The D’s present-day Longbar in downtown Las Vegas.
However the actual star of the Stardust at its opening was the Lido de Paris, the first topless French revue manufacturing staged in Las Vegas. Producer Donn Arden turned famend each for the technical complexity of the Lido – the stage mounted on six hydraulic lifts that would increase and decrease it as the drama demanded – and the great thing about the costumed showgirls.
With its lodge rooms sprawling to the again in two-story wings, the Stardust’s chief roadside visible impression was its brightly lit signal — a 216-foot-long universe of celestial our bodies joined by a spherical Earth circled by a satellite tv for pc. The signal was a record-setter, as was the 105-foot-long Massive Dipper pool.
Dalitz and his associates ran a worthwhile on line casino with the assist of supervisor Johnny Drew. The Desert Inn crew remained lessees of Issue and his associates till 1965, once they turned the house owners of the property. Three years later, Howard Hughes tried unsuccessfully to purchase the Stardust. Having already purchased the Desert Inn from Dalitz, the eccentric billionaire needed to personal what was, at the time, the state’s largest on line casino. Nevertheless, the Justice Division’s antitrust division halted what they thought can be an unfair focus of on line casino possession.
All through the 1960s, the Stardust expanded. It added a nine-story tower, bringing its complete room rely near 1,500, and a number of other new eating places. The most fondly remembered have been seafood restaurant Moby Dick and the Polynesian hotspot Aku Aku. Though each at the moment are lengthy gone, a minimum of one piece of the Aku Aku survives. One in every of the two moai (stone statues) that graced the entrance of the restaurant stands on an island in the huge lake at Sundown Park in Las Vegas.
Keno was one other Stardust innovation of the 1960s. It had lengthy been performed in downtown casinos, however the Stardust, beneath supervisor Jerry Steinberg, introduced it to the Strip in 1967.
Allen Glick, a San Diego actual property investor, purchased the Stardust in 1974. However his Argent Company proved to be a entrance for an enormous skimming operation by a syndicate of Midwestern crime households. Courtesy of Las Vegas Assessment-Journal.
In 1969, Dalitz bought the Stardust to the Parvin-Dohrmann Company, which 5 years later bought the on line casino to Allen Glick’s Argent Company.
Should you’ve seen the film On line casino, you understand the story — substitute “Stardust” for “Tangiers,” and also you’ve acquired the gist of it. Glick, a beforehand obscure San Diego lawyer and actual property developer, first purchased the Hacienda Lodge on the Strip, after which the Fremont Lodge downtown and the Stardust. How did he do it? With about $100 million in loans from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.
Beneath Argent’s management, a former Chicago and Miami bookmaker named Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal turned the de facto boss of the on line casino, regardless that he didn’t but have a gaming license. Not everybody favored Rosenthal or his administration type (the scene in On line casino with the Rosenthal-based character Ace Rothstein obsessing over the variety of blueberries in the espresso store’s muffins wasn’t removed from the fact). However Rosenthal was in a position to usher in sufficient huge gamers that sellers noticed their ideas improve. That alone made him well-liked on the on line casino flooring.
One other Rosenthal innovation, the sports activities guide, would develop into one among the on line casino’s most celebrated parts till it closed. Reportedly, the pay telephones outdoors the e-book have been the highest grossing in the nation, as runners grabbed the nearest phone to tell their out-of-state associates of the Stardust’s betting strains as quickly as the e-book posted them. The “Stardust line” remained an business commonplace till the very finish.
Whereas Rosenthal had the on line casino being profitable, he additionally supervised a slot and desk recreation skimming operation that finally funneled hundreds of thousands to the Mob. In the early 1980s, federal investigators confirmed that since 1974, Stardust staff, working on behalf of a number of Midwestern Mob bosses, stole giant quantities of cash from the Stardust and Fremont casinos.
In 1983, a federal grand jury indicted 15 individuals in a conspiracy to skim no less than $1.6 million from the casinos’ desk video games, utilizing phony paperwork. These indicted included Joseph Aiuppa, head of the Chicago Outfit; Carl Civella, Mafia chief in Kansas Metropolis; and Milwaukee syndicate boss Frank Balistrieri.
The Chicago Outfit put in Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, a infamous bookmaker, to run the Stardust and oversee a big skimming operation. After the skim was uncovered, Nevada gaming authorities positioned Rosenthal in the Black Guide, banning him for life from Nevada casinos. Courtesy of Las Vegas Assessment-Journal.
Later, authorities charged mobsters in Cleveland with sharing in the stolen on line casino proceeds with the different Mob households. They estimated the 4 crime households took in $2 million from the Stardust alone.
Cleveland mobster turned witness Angelo Lonardo testified in federal courtroom in 1985 that Milton Rockman, the Cleveland Mafia’s level man and his shut good friend, advised him that mobsters in Milwaukee and Kansas Metropolis held sway over the Teamsters pension fund and tapped it to mortgage cash to Glick to purchase the Stardust. Lonardo said that the Chicago, Kansas Metropolis, Milwaukee and Cleveland crime households every acquired from $40,000 and as much as $100,000 per 30 days from the Stardust skim, and that Cleveland Teamsters Union official William Presser, who was a pension fund trustee, acquired $1,500 a month.
Amid the allegations, Argent bought the Stardust to a gaggle run by two veteran on line casino executives, Herb Tobman and Allan Sachs. Whereas at first heralded as a brand new starting for the Stardust, proof of continued skimming surfaced, and the state pressured Tobman and Sachs to relinquish management of the on line casino.
At the request of Nevada gaming regulators, the Boyd Group assumed the day-to-day operations of the Stardust. In 1985, Boyd purchased each the Stardust and Fremont. Sachs and Tobman misplaced their gaming licenses and needed to pay a $three million high quality.
As new proprietor, Boyd made a number of controversial modifications in the Stardust. It changed the well-known Lido de Paris – which had impressed a number of imitators and gave a stage to younger magicians Siegfried and Roy – with the less-revered stage present Enter the Night time in 1992. Whereas the resort’s 1967 signal, that includes a bathe of stars, remained, Boyd changed the midcentury futuristic lettering with a blocky typeface.
Whereas the Stardust remained well-liked, it was by no means as worthwhile as the new casinos of the megaresort period. Boyd closed the property in 2006. Its ill-timed alternative resort, the Echelon hotel-casino, fell sufferer to the Nice Recession and development was halted. Boyd bought the Stardust website in 2013 to a Malaysian firm, Genting Group, which plans to assemble the Resorts World Las Vegas, a Chinese language-themed megaresort, for an estimated $7.2 billion.
Though the future may see one other on line casino rise on the land that when hosted the Stardust, the on line casino’s place in Las Vegas — and arranged crime — historical past won’t ever be overwritten.
David G. Schwartz, writer of a number of books on Las Vegas gaming historical past, is director of the Middle for Gaming Analysis and teaches historical past at the College of Nevada, Las Vegas.
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