Mob Controlled Casinos Of Havana, Cuba

By | 12 June, 2019

Back in the days, before there was anything called online scratch card games, Cuba was the tropical playground of its rich neighbour- America. Then came Castro, the Cold War and communism.

Things are a little better now that the American and Cuban government have decided to dial down the fierce rhetoric and work with each other. With that being the case, visa requirements have been relaxed and tourists can now visit the tropical paradise that was Cuba and tramp through its hotels, restaurants and nightclubs.

The Mob Knows Where The Money Is

The hotels, restaurants and nightclubs were in the main run by mobsters in pre-revolution Cuba. Such mobsters controlled the crap tables, roulette wheels, card tables and gaming dens across the country, but most especially in Havana. They include iconic figures like Meyer Lansky and Santo Trafficante Jr.

The hotels and restaurants of the period that were built by the mob still exist in all their glory and can be explored to the maximum. These include the Hotel Capri, owned by the aforementioned Trafficante.

Once, George Raft, an American actor and the casino host at Hotel Capri, was forced to offer Castro’s revolutionaries a free buffet, so that they would refrain from smashing the casino to bits.

In Havana’s 21st Street is the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which overlooks the blue sea. Constructed in 1930, this superb hotel blends a mix of Spanish, classical, Art Deco and Moorish elements to produce a structure with no peer.

In 1946, this same hotel hosted a summit by Lucky Luciano that had in attendance most of the notables of the mob world. This includes the likes of Meyer Lansky, Albert Anastasia, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Moe Dalitz, Santo Trafficante Jr., Joe and Rocco Fischetti.

Swanky Hotels Aplenty

For a true definition of a swanky hotel, the Hotel Riviera takes the centre stage. This 440-room hotel by the sea was owned by Meyer Lansky and began its operations in 1957. It is astonishingly well preserved, almost like a time capsule. Tourists can thus wander throughout its lush interior and be transported back in time.

The last, biggest and possibly mightiest of the pre-Castro and mob-ruled hotels of Cuba is the Habana Hilton. Renamed Habana Libre once Castro swept into power, it is a stunning masterpiece that dominates the city of Havana.

The hotel is of 30 stories, with 630 rooms, a couple of very sizable ballrooms, a swimming pool that could swallow a blue whale, a rooftop lounge and what was a rather glamorous casino. More than a few sources relate that the mob competed so fiercely for the license of this specific casino that it has been plausibly put forward as a motive in the 1957 murder of capo Albert Anastasia in a New York hotel.

The Mob Means Business

There are other mob-controlled casinos in the hotels and restaurants of the period. This includes the likes of St. John and Deauville Hotel, as well as the Monseigneur restaurant. The latter had Meyer Lansky as a part owner and all three are adjacent to Hotel Nacional and are easily explorable on foot.

Go on, get to Havana and have a feel for the fabulous mob-controlled casinos and restaurants of the glorious past.


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