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December 26

The Flamingo Hotel

While Bugsy Siegel didn’t live long enough to see it materialize, the city did eventually become a major entertainment oasis in the dry Nevada desert.

Photo by flickr user "UNLV Libraries Digital Collections"

1946: Vegas on the Verge
Bugsy Siegel opens the Flamingo Hotel
The gangster Benjamin Siegel—better known as “Bugsy”—was instrumental in the rise of Las Vegas from a patch of desert to an entertainment hub. In early 1946, Siegel met William Wilkerson, who was building a hotel called the Pink Flamingo Hotel and Casino. Siegel’s mentor Meyer Lansky wanted a piece of the Flamingo, and while Siegel initially balked at being away from L.A., he soon became invested in the construction.

He bought building materials on the black market and overrode blueprints for the hotel with his own ideas. Siegel was no architect, though; these decisions ultimately led to huge cost overruns and delays. On opening day, construction racket and drop cloths filled the lobby, and the air-conditioning—a first in this town—was on the fritz.
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