The Mafia and Gambling

The mafia has always been fascinating to all of us. The Cosa Nostra, as they call themselves, tends to be almost mythical and yet we know so much about them. That’s why one of the very well-known things of today is that the mafia started modern gambling and kept it going and expanding through the years. In this article, we’ll lay out some basic history and how things changed and grew as time passed. You might be wondering if casinos are even truly safe, even in our day and age.

Well, a lot has changed, overall, so you can rest assured no one is going to ruin your kneecaps over a gambling debt. However, the mafia’s hold cannot extend properly to the online realm, so feel free to check out these best casino offers if you truly wish to be extra cautious and avoid the mafia at all costs. By and large, the governments of the world have made it so the mafia can’t be open about its gambling connections, but it never hurts to be cautious.

Gambling and the Mafia’s Relationship through the Ages

The Earliest Years

The world of gambling and betting of all kinds was vastly different, up until the year 1931, when the state commission of Nevada legalized gambling. This was the turning point for both the world of gambling in general and the state itself. These days, it’s largely seen as the only move the state felt would keep it going. While some speculate the theory is too neat and mobsters were in fact to blame, there has yet to be any real proof of this.

The mafia ran gambling of all kinds, from betting on football results to games of poker, before this period. While the halls and bars where these things were organized were all illegal, they tended to be more opulent and profitable than almost any other venture in the world. Some even claim that Nevada simply wanted to tax all of that revenue, since they were estimated to be the best state for this sort of illegal work, due to deserts allowing for many perfect hiding spots.

As to why this managed to keep going for a good few decades, the reason is simple and summed up in one word: bribery. Yes, it’s estimated that no police officers, before or since, have earned as much in bribes as the ones who were paid to look the other way and leave gambling establishments alone back in those times. Conservative estimates claim police officers, overall, earned tens of thousands of dollars each, before even accounting for inflation. And that was just a drop in the bucket to the mafia.

1931 up until the 1970s

Shockingly, the mobsters weren’t first on the scene when gambling was legalized in Nevada. Instead, some entrepreneurs saw the writing on the wall and did their utmost to invest everything they could scrounge up, leverage and borrow into the newly forming Strip. Were it not for their desperation and willingness to borrow from anyone, under nearly any circumstances, they could’ve kept the mafia out of Nevada and Las Vegas entirely.

Instead, wiser heads of crime families like Bugsy Siegel decided to grab up as much as they could, using a combination of shady deals and loans out in the open. It was an odd mixture since you had casinos that were funded with hidden money and seemed to have no owners, next to people openly being friendly with the mobsters, even employing their approved workers.

The mob found many easy ways to make a huge amount of money, beyond just investing in casinos. It was always easy to skim profits off the top, tax-free. Extorting was also a huge source of income. In fact, precisely the fact that they did so is why the federal governments of many nations started cracking down on them in the 1970s, especially in the state of Nevada.

From the 70s up until Present Day

These days, the casinos all around the world are very wary of being associated with the mafia at all. In some countries, even a solid hint of such activity and connection is plenty enough to get a license revoked. This has hardly stopped things. In fact, it’s still a thriving, illegal enterprise for the mob. They’ve just largely tried to keep it secretive and something people largely speculate on.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the mafia is still going strong. In fact, Matteo Denaro used the profits from things like slot machines to fund his hiding from the law. With some intermediaries, one of them being his sister, the man was able to get all the money he needed and more besides, to ensure he didn’t want for anything while on the lamb. There’s even a shockingly well-organized system of governing among the crime families.


It would seem that there will always be mafia involvement in gambling, as long as it exists. Hopefully, you at least found this educational and eye-opening in many ways.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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