Sam Boyd may have modernized the iconic Las Vegas strip, but it was American mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel who first dreamed of building the town into a high stakes gambling and drinking hangout in the Nevada desert.
Bugsy, a notoriously dangerous celebrity gangster from the Jewish mob who had ties to other American mafias, put a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort into designing and building the Flamingo Hotel, the first of its kind in Vegas. He wanted to indulge people’s vices with the biggest and the best—the nicest liquors and entertainment money could find. But Bugsy fared better with brute force than business, setting his lavish Las Vegas ambitions up for failure.
He had so much faith in his business adventure and the budget went so much over the original cost that he oversold shares of the hotel and casino to practically anyone who would buy them. Basically, he sold shares that didn’t even exist. Of course, this was illegal.
Yet the hotel and casino still opened in December of 1946. Unfinished, with its touted grandeur marred by construction work, it quickly ran into the red and closed just over a month later. It reopened in March of 1947, this time able to make a profit.
Bugsy never lived to see his hotel continue to thrive. He was shot and killed in Beverly Hills by an unknown assailant. No one was ever arrested or convicted for the murder, indicating it was an inside job. Multiple theories about the killers’ motivation abound.
His presence is forever memorialized at the hotel. A simple stone pillar, bearing a plaque with his details, stands behind the resort’s flamingo habitat and waterfalls, across the lawn from the Garden Chapel. Without a hint of the typical Vegas pizzaz, it remains an overlooked marker of the original site of Bugsy’s infamous hotel.
Know Before You Go
Follow signs in the casino for Habitat. Once you’re in the habitat, walk toward the middle and look for the signs directing you to the chapel. The monument is directly across from the chapel doors.