The Ultimate Don

December 3rd, 2016
Back The Ultimate Don

He was born in Poland. He emigrated to America in 1911 with his mother. He grew up in Lower Manhattan, New York. And he conquered the mob-controlled casino industry.

If you don't know, I'm talking about Meyer Lansky, a Jewish mob boss who is given credit for creating gambling casinos in Havana, Cuba, and who is alleged to have arranged the murder of Bugsy Siegel, who was suspected of skimming profits at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.

Lansky grew up small but he made up for his size by being tough. He survived the gangs of New York, palled around with underworld characters, and made his mark in Las Vegas where he became known as the 'Mob's Accountant.'

Meyer had a brain for figures and he understood the odds on gambling games better than anyone who worked for him. He became trusted by Gus Greenbaum, Lucky Luciano and other underworld leaders in Las Vegas where he learned the casino business from the bottom up.


He learned it was easy to get around the law by bribing the right officials. He also learned that might makes right, and always used strongarm tactics to protect the casinos he operated.

While still living in New York in the 1930s, he and his mob friends harassed Nazi sympathizers who were trying to raise money for Adolph Hitler's war effort. One evening Meyer and 15 friends broke into a fund-raising party. They beat up the participants and threw a couple of them out the window.

Later Meyer would work undercover for U.S. Naval Intelligence. He and his fellow mobsters would patrol the docks looking for Nazi sympathizers and Uboats in the harbor. This contact with the government would later serve him well when he used his contacts to get Lucky Luciano freed from prison.

Lansky traveled from Las Vegas to Havana, Cuba to set up a gambling empire. After being released from prison, Luciano followed him there. They bribed dictator Fulgencio Battista with cash and set up gambling casinos, hotels and bars. They lived like kings.

While he was living in Cuba, Lansky had his hand in the Las Vegas underworld. He earned money through his points from Las Vegas casinos. He was one of the people responsible for financing the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas and approved Bugsy Siegel as its manager.


On Dec. 22, 1945, a mob conference was held at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba. Attendees included Joe Adonis, Albert Anastasia, Frank Costello, Joe Bonanno, Vito Genovese, Mo Dalitz, Thomas Luchese and Carlos Marcello, the leading Mafia bosses in America. Entertainment was furnished by Frank Sinatra.

When the hotel-casino failed to make money, the mob suspected Bugsy was stealing it and called for a hit. Lansky prevented Bugsy from being killed and said, 'Give him another chance.' But when the losses continued, Lansky was overruled. On June 20, 1947, the bullet-riddled body of Bugsy Siegel was found in an partment in Beverly Hills, CA.

Lansky always denied being part of the plot to assassinate Bugsy, saying, 'If it was up to me, he would still be alive.'

In 19s59, Lansky's Havana gambling empire collapsed because of a bearded revolutionary named Fidel Castro.

Castro and his rebel army invaded the casinos, smashed the slot machines, took the cash and basically put Lansky and his subordinates out of business. When he was asked later about his losses in Cuba, Meyer just shrugged and said, 'I crapped out.'


He died of lung cancer at the age of 80 in Miami, FL., leaving behind a widow and three children.

Lansky's daughter, Sandra, wrote a book, 'Daughter of the King: Growing up in Gangland.' Many movies have been made about Lansky, including 'Havana,' starring Robert Redford as a poker player; 'Bugsy'; 'The Lost City'; 'Once Upon A Time in America'; and 'The Godfather, Part II.'

In 2015 when the United States and Cuba normalized relations, Gary Rapoport, Lansky's grandson, petitioned the Cuban government to compensate his family for the confiscation of the Riviera Hotel in Havana which Lansky built. At press time, that issue had not been resolved.

“mob boss who is given credit for creating gambling casinos in Havana, Cuba”

Back to articles
Lincoln Casino accepts players from USA


Search Results

Select language

English English

Don't show this again

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter