Gambling And The Mafia
Aug 21, 2014
Organized crime has been around since the middle of the 19th century and is still around today in various forms, we take a look at some of them.
The rise of the mafia from humble origins in the chaos of post-feudal Italy were to have significant effects on the rest of the world. The protection of land holdings and the ability to be a form of authority in a time when there was precious little of it to go round gave them an influence and credibility that rivaled even that of the duly elected officials… when the two weren’t one and the same. The needs of the community were met, and the legitimacy that lent the Cosa Nostra has not entirely worn off.
Immigrant communities in the larger cities of the US were obvious havens for those who had to flee the repression of the fascist era in Italy, Mussolini being no fan of the mafia after it became clear to him their power, in certain locations at least, not merely rivaled but dwarfed his own. The Italian immigrant gangs then vied for power and control with ethnic Irish or Jewish gangs run pretty much along the same lines as the Italians.
The Mafia From 1860 To The Present Day
• Origins in Sicily after the fall of feudalism
• Immigration to the US created mafia there
• Casino strategy a double edged sword
The mafia model was adopted by a great many different groups who all saw the virtue of having a close knit organization of trust worthy men who operated to a code of honor and understood the need to gain and maintain respect in the local community by providing service and facility to them that the legitimate authorities were unable or unwilling to bestow. The rivalry between these groups has been represented in the media both as news and fiction, piquing public interest and becoming a fascination.
From the fields of Sicily to the streets of Las Vegas the mafia didn’t just come a long way but was a huge success whilst doing so. The prohibition era force them to change their thinking about the business revenue streams that were most profitable with their interests not limiting themselves to just supply of illegal booze. Need for smart strategies at the point of sale, and during transport, the protection of other groups doing similar activities and the political influence to get away with it all force the mafia of the 20s to adapt and develop new skill sets.
The end of prohibition was to have an even more startling effect as the thirties and forties provided ample opportunity for other money making schemes. From the casinos of Cuba to the protection rackets of Chicago for a while there seems little could dent the rise of the mafia bosses and their slick organizations. World War Two did slow the pace of change a little but as soon as the conflict was over, and war time security measures subsided, the mafia was quick to make the changes.
The Flamingo is the genesis point of the mafia’s involvement in Las Vegas and legitimate gambling (to say the mafia were involved in illegal gambling is like announcing a dead ferret has no idea about blackjack). Well known criminal families invested legitimate money, or at least money borrowed legitimately from institutions that were illegitimately mafia run, in casinos up and down the strip. The skimming off the top a very simple way of keeping the money off the books.
It also allowed the mafia to curry favor with those in power. Complimentary suites, suitable companions and lines of credit could all be arranged for friends of the owners, who, it would turn out, was every mafia and not just one. In order to prevent infighting and conflict between families on the streets of the “open city” that was Las Vegas, they’d all gained stakes in each other’s businesses. This consolidation of mafia business practice was both sensible and disastrous.
The need for adaptability and rapid change to suit circumstance is a natural prerequisite of the criminal given that not everything always goes to plan. Organized criminals however have to be even more willing to change in the face of new situations or face the consequences. In the post prohibition era of the mid-thirties several, until then quite secure mafia families went under or were absorbed as they failed to make the necessary adjustments.
Since the crack down by authorities on the more traditional mafia enterprises of the 70s and 80s there has had to be a further adaptation of their business model. New cartels of drug traffickers and the massive rise in counterfeit goods from the far east, as well as mass immigration of cheap illegal labor have meant a new form of gangster is taking to the fore, both in the physical world and on that frontier of knowledge and science, the internet.
Whilst the internet has spread the ability to commit crime from further afield and allowed a diversification of business revenue streams the transnational nature of modern day organized crime has given rise to their not just seeking political influence but political power itself. Why pay off a judge, police chief or politician when you can have your own man in the job? From Russia to Venezuela the signs of increased infiltration of the state by the mafia almost mirrors the attempts of the state to infiltrate the mafia.
The major difference being that the mafia have proven better at it. The war on drugs alone has produced numerous occasions in which those in charge of combating say trafficking have been found to not just be involved in the trafficking, but actually leading the organizations behind it. In these mafia nations they haven’t just created a card counting system, but a system by which the cards are all arranged in a preset order before the game starts.