Last of the Las Vegas Mob Connection Goes Down with a Bang
When the ten-count ended early on the morning of June 13, the Riviera Monaco tower fell faster than Joe Frazier. It only took twenty seconds to bring down the 61-year old tower; Frazier dropped in almost two minutes in the "Fight of the Century".
Possibly the most famous landmark in Las Vegas, the Tower was the city's first high-rise. In a time when all of the gambling was confined to single story, roadside motels, the gleam of glass and steel Monte Carlo tower made the Riviera stand out.
From its opening in 1955, when Liberace signed a $50,000 a week contract to be the first resident entertainer, through the 80s, the Riviera was mob built, mob owned, and the mob ran. Many of the gambling profits were siphoned off and sent to Chicago to finance prostitution, loan sharking, and prostitution.
When the city started in the 80s and 90s to clean up its image, the Riviera was one of the earliest to get on board.
Where mobsters played, families now relaxed and enjoyed a little fun in a family atmosphere.
The hotel/casino never left its roots. The 100,000 main gambling hall had over 1,000 slot machines and 25 table games.
At its height, the Riviera was bringing in hundreds of millions a week.
It was an act that has been repeated many times. Tuesday night was the Riviera's turn as the Monaco Tower imploded after a 60-year run.
The Las Vegas Convention Authority owns the site. The group intends to replace Riviera's buildings with more convention space.
The implosion was a while in the making. The board of directors bought the Riviera in February 2015 and spent over $182 million in buying the historic resort. They tossed in another $8 million on related expense; the Riviera closed just over two months later.
Originally planned for 2 am, the timing was changed to 2:30 am due to unspecified "logistics."
By the time the casino opened in 1955, organized crime had already sunk their teeth into the city's casinos. It was a takeover that had begun in the 1940s.
The casino was first thought up by Detroit mobster William Bischoff. A gaming license was granted, and Bischoff later left the project when it was taken over by Samuel Cohen, a Miami businessman. By March 1955, Cohen, a member of a Miami gambling syndicate left the group.
Three months after opening, a group led by Gus Greenbaum took over the operation, Greenbaum retired, but was forced to return to work by Chicago mob boss Tony Accardo — who made Greenbaum an "offer he couldn't refuse".
Greenbaum was addicted to drugs and gambling. His addictions gave him the idea to embezzle from the casino and in December 1958, Greenbaum, along with his wife, were murdered on the orders of Meyer Lansky.
The hotel and casino passed through several more hands — all mob connected. Mob fixer, Sidney Korshak played a significant role in management. Korshak skimmed the casino's revenues and delivered the profits to Chicago. "The Riviera was always the Chicago outfit's crown jewel in the desert," said Geoff Schumacher of the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.
"Federal crackdowns on organized crime helped rid the city from crime syndicates," said noted Las Vegas criminal defense attorney, Nick Wooldridge. "That opened the doors go gaming corporations and billionaires like Sheldon Adelson."
In 1983 the Rivier filed Chapter 11. Boston-based Meshulam Riklis and Isidore Becker bought the property for over $60 million and appointed Jeffrey Silver as CEO to turn the property around.
Silver started the shift from focusing on high rollers and focusing on middle — and working — class gamblers. Silver debuted a Burker King in the building — the first fast food chain in a casino — and inspired the phrase "Burger King Revolution".
While Las Vegas was trying to clean up, Hollywood's version of the past kept the Riviera on the top.
Three of the most famous movies ever made in Las Vegas used the Riviera as a backdrop. The 1960s "Ocean's 11," the 1971 Bond film, "Diamonds Are Forever" and the 1995 move, Casino, based on real-life Vegas mobsters Rosenthal and Spilotro.
The Riviera's shorter Monte Carlo tower will be imploded later this year.