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Raines to speak at inaugural Vegas MobWorld Summit

by Lindsey Wells | June 11, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

Robert K. Raines, Hot Springs author, historian and founder and director of The Gangster Museum of America in downtown Hot Springs, will speak this weekend at the inaugural MobWorld Summit in Las Vegas.

The summit, to be held Friday through Sunday at Las Vegas' Plaza Hotel & Casino, will feature, among others, a former Las Vegas mobster and the daughter of a Hollywood gangster, who was mobster Bugsy Siegel's partner.

Several guests who were active during the mob's heyday in Las Vegas, including former mobster Frank Cullotta, will participate in panel discussions focusing on "the real story" behind the blockbuster 1995 movie "Casino," a news release said.

Raines' presentation will cover the comparison of growth and evolution of Hot Springs compared to Las Vegas. In the 1930s, Hot Springs was at its high point for gambling and a popular hangout for infamous mobsters such as Al Capone and Frank Costello.

According to Raines, in 1931, Hot Springs was home to 25,500 people and had 14-15 major hotels in operation, while Las Vegas had a population of 5,000 and not one single hotel. He said gambling in Las Vegas began in 1931 on a small scale during the building of Boulder Dam, now known as Hoover Dam.

"To provide a camp for the workers, which were all basically government workers, they built some cottages and stuff in Vegas and they began gambling on a real small scale," Raines said.

Las Vegas acquired electricity and running water in 1935, really putting them "on the scene," Raines said, and opened the doors to its first multilevel hotel in 1945.

"By 1945, Hot Springs was already doing $70 million a year in gambling. Vegas was just a little dump," he added.

From then on, Las Vegas slowly built its gambling and entertainment enterprise.

"Most of their training, according to the people I've talked to, came from Hot Springs," Raines said. "That's how they learned how to run casinos, was in Hot Springs, Ark. So, because the mob could not get into Hot Springs -- it was a locally owned thing -- the mob went to Las Vegas and started casinos."

Now, Las Vegas is home to over 680,000 people, and Hot Springs only 36,000.

"So, that's kind of what my presentation is going to be on, the evolution of these two cities that started out vastly different," Raines said. "We've only gained 15,000 people in the last hundred years. It's just fascinating to me, and of course, all of it really is gambling, except it took Las Vegas a while to get their feet wet, so to speak, with gambling. Really, it took the mob to make it happen. We had the same entertainers they had -- and we had them first."

Even after Las Vegas surpassed Hot Springs in the gambling industry, infamous mobsters were still vacationing in the Spa City. One of the most notorious mobsters who settled in Hot Springs was Owney "The Killer" Madden.

"The mob, who came here even after Las Vegas was booming, eventually they were coming here to visit Madden," Raines said, "and to take baths and enjoy fishing. They were here really more as retired mobsters. I think history shows that Sam Giancana came here in the early 1960s and really made probably the last attempt to take over here, but Frank Costello and Madden pretty much held him off, and Hot Springs carried on with the help of the governor."

Raines said when gambling became illegal in Hot Springs, many of the unemployed casino workers relocated to Las Vegas and Galveston, another gambling oasis, for work because of the connections they had built.

Raines' panel is set for noon Saturday and will be moderated by Larry Henry and Casey Robert McBride.

Henry, who writes the monthly "The Mob in Pop Culture" blog for The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, said in the release that interest in the mob is at an all-time high, judging by the large number of participants in online Mafia fan sites.

"The purpose of the summit is to bring together top mob experts to discuss Mafia history with all of those who have an interest in this endlessly fascinating topic," he added.

Local on 06/11/2018

Print Headline: Raines to speak at inaugural Vegas MobWorld Summit

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