Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kefauver Hearings Hit Las Vegas

On Nov. 15, 1950, the Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce held the seventh in a series nationwide hearings in Las Vegas. Commonly referred to as the Kefauver Hearings, the televised hearings kept an estimated 30 million Americans on the edge of their seats as they watched with rapt attention a parade of crime bosses, bookies, pimps, and hit men discuss a salacious topic that had never before been publicly exposed or discussed. Held in 14 cities across the country, the hearings were led by U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver (Democrat-Tennessee) to expose and control organized crime.

Yet, ironically, historians generally credit the hearings with cementing Las Vegas as the gaming capital of the country since the crackdown on illegal gambling that followed the hearings drove operators to Las Vegas and Nevada – known as the "open city," and the only city/state in the country where gambling was then legal.

The hearings were also significant for revolutionizing the then new medium of television as a source for news and current events. Twice the audience of the 1950 World Series flocked to restaurants, bars and neighbors' homes to watch the all-day hearings. Some school systems even dismissed students early so they could watch with their parents.

As The Mob Museum prepares to open in just three months on Valentine's Day 2012, final touches are being put on the restoration and rehabilitation of The Museum's centerpiece - the courtroom where the Las Vegas Kefauver hearings occurred. Soon you'll be able to explore this notorious piece of Mob history for yourself.

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