Beyond the Mafia: Italian Americans and the Development of Las Vegas

Article excerpt

Beyond the Mafia: Italian Americans and the Development of Las Vegas. Alan Balboni. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1996. $27.95 cloth.

In the wake of such published and filmed blockbusters of modified history as Bugsy and Nicholas Pileggi's Casino comes Beyond the Mafia by Alan Balboni, professor of history and political science at the Community College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. The world's population has long been fascinated by the romance of Glitter Gulch and The Strip and lured by the promise of quick riches, easily attained, but it has been the mythological marriage of that adult Disneyland to the Mob which has most intrigued those attracted to Nevada lore. Although he acknowledges the historical presence of "The Boys," as he calls those connected to organized crime, Dr. Balboni offers an antithesis to popular opinion by proving that many immigrants, particularly those of Italian descent, were instrumental in all areas of the economic development of Las Vegas, without any fraternization with the Mafia.

According to Balboni, the national media's focus on alleged Mob connections to organized gambling and to the unprecedented growth of Las Vegas (from 127,000 in 1960 to over a million in 1995) has downplayed the diverse and important contributions made by the average entrepreneurial immigrant spirit. Based on interviews with more than 150 Italian American residents of Las Vegas, Beyond the Mafia endeavors to dispel the Mafia myth by revealing individual life stories of real people descended from agrarian stock, railroad builders, shopkeepers, politicians, restauranteurs, and public works officials as well as those employed by the casinos. …