Organized Crime Not in Bistate Casinos, Officials Insist but Experts at Gaming Conference Say Mob Hard to Keep Out

By William C. Lhotka Of The Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 7, 1996 | Go to article overview

Organized Crime Not in Bistate Casinos, Officials Insist but Experts at Gaming Conference Say Mob Hard to Keep Out


William C. Lhotka Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


IT PROBABLY started before gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was gunned down in a Beverly Hills mansion in 1947 after building the Flamingo Hotel on a strip of desert sand called Las Vegas. But ever since the hit on Siegel, casinos and organized crime have been all mobbed up in public consciousness.

Books and movies like the "Godfather" trilogy and "Casino" have left sharp impressions about Mob wars, skimming, and contract hits painted against a background of glitz and glamour.

Now Vegas-style casino riverboats are floating across the Midwest and South - 10 in Illinois, eight in Missouri. The question remains: What role does organized crime play within the fastest growing industry in the United States? None whatsoever, say officials in Missouri and Illinois who monitor the gambling boats. Don't be so sure, counter two experts who've studied the industry. The issue of mob influence was tackled last week at the National Conference on Gambling, Crime and Gaming Enforcement at Illinois State U niversity. The conference drew about 250 professionals from various backgrounds in academia, mental health and law enforcement, along with a handful of industry officials. Two of the participants were Bob Feusel, former executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, and Terrence Brunner, head of a Chicago watchdog group. Both have lengthy backgrounds in criminal investigation and Mob-watching. "If there is money to be made in gambling, organized crime is going to be there," Feusel said. "They may not be out front, but they will be there." Jeremy Margolis, a Chicago lawyer, represents the gambling boats. He took issue with Brunner, Feusel and other opponents of legalized gambling, arguing they use anecdotal allegations and rhetoric but provide no proof whatsoever of mob ties to riverboat casinos. Like Brunner, Margolis has investigated organized crime as a former state and federal prosecutor. "The reality is: there is a rich history of the Mob and Las Vegas because that's how Las Vegas got started," Margolis said. "But Howard Hughes sold TWA for $650 million and bought 25 percent of the Vegas strip. That gave Las Vegas the beginnings of respectability and publicly traded corporations then looked at casinos as legitimate investments." The organized crime issue is a red herring, he said. He challenged Brunner and Feusel to name names. …

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