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Reporters Help Shed Light On Mob As Las Vegas Evolved In 1970s

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(AP photo)

Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal sits at a witness table before the Senate Investigations Subcommittee, Sept. 8, 1961 in Washington during a probe of organized gambling.

The Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas chronicles the history of organized crime, and that story would be less complete were it not for the efforts of intrepid news reporters.

The work of some of them will be recognized Tuesday at the museum during a panel discussion, including journalists who covered organized crime in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s.

That period saw the end of widespread mob involvement in the city’s casino resorts as the vision of the modern, corporate Las Vegas began to appear on the horizon.

It was also a time when mobsters such as Anthony Spilotro and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal stepped out of the shadows and began to bask in their notoriety, according to Geoff Schumacher, the senior director of content at the Mob Museum.

“Suddenly, these guys were being very brash and arrogant almost about their positions,” he said.

That made them higher-profile targets for authorities and better stories for reporters.

Mobsters taking a higher profile, combined with efforts by the FBI and the State Gaming Control Board to go after skimming operations at the casinos sparked much of the reporting during that era.

Linda Faiss was in the thick of it. She was an editor at the since closed Valley Times.

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Faiss said sources would come to reporters to get their stories out and push along efforts to investigate and hopefully indict organized crime figures.

“We were able to get sources who were frustrated because they couldn’t find any other way to get their story out,” she said.

One of her sources at the time worked for the audit division of the gaming control board. She said he would take what he found in his work up to the State Gaming Commission, but he was told to not "go too far."

Schumacher said state leaders were worried about putting too much pressure on casinos and newspaper publishers were concerned about losing revenue from advertisers. 

“You saw journalists really pushing this not the publishers at the Review-Journal and the Sun or the general managers of the TV stations," he said, "You had reporters pushing this because they saw this as a big story.”

One of the journalists who pushed the hardest was Ned Day. Day worked for the Valley Times, the Review-Journal and Channel 8. 

“Ned was fearless," Schumacher said, "He would take on all these guys.”

Day moved to Las Vegas from Milwaukee, where he had also reported on the mob. Schumacher said when Day moved here the mob became his story. 

“He really did I think a great justice for Las Vegas in exposing what they were doing,” he said.

 

Guests

Linda Faiss, former journalist who covered organized crime; Geoff Schumacher, senior director of content, Mob Museum

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