Once upon a time, the Stardust Resort and Casino was a hopping place in Las Vegas. Checkered by a history involving organized criminal activity like skimming, the controversial facility closed its doors to the public in 2006 after 48 years of operation and was physically destroyed in 2007 to make way for new construction. Today, the Stardust Casino lives on in the virtual world through a free social gaming app on Facebook. The app is currently available to citizens in Australia, Canada, and the U.K. A U.S. version will be unveiled in the near future.
Stardust App: A “Worthy Successor” to the Real Thing
In 2013, Boyd Gaming sold the property formerly known as the Stardust Resort and Casino to Genting Group, a Malaysian company which plans to open a Resorts World Las Vegas in that location in 2016. Although the Stardust stands no more, Bob Boughner, one of Boyd's vice presidents, said he is pleased with the new virtual version of Stardust created by Bwin.party, calling it a “worthy successor” to the original brick-and-mortar facility.
Stunning Visuals Bring the Stardust Back to Life
A younger person who never had the chance to see the original Stardust Casino can do so virtually via the Facebook app, which replicates the original Stardust environment with stunning accuracy. High definition 3-D visuals of the lobby lead players to a virtual room of lifelike games including blackjack, roulette, and slot machines. Gamers climb from “novice” to “high roller” rank as they gain experience points through free play. Critics agree that this nostalgic app emulates the unique flavor of the former Las Vegas icon in a way that truly captures the imagination and rivets the player.
If These Walls Could Talk: Why the Stardust Was So Special
The Stardust was a memorable place to those who knew it, rich with history and stories both good and bad. The 2007 implosion of the building was as spectacular and dramatic as the facility's tumultuous past. A mob-run casino for many years, the Stardust saw more than its share of skimming and scamming over its nearly half-century run. In 1995, Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone celebrated some of the facility's drama in the movie Casino. Martin Scorsese directed the film, which was eventually nominated for several American Film Institute awards.
How the Stardust Began: Tony Cornero's Dream
The idea for the Stardust Resort and Casino was conceived in the 1950s by Tony Cornero, a businessman with a sketchy past of his own who served jail time in the 1920s for violating the liquor laws of Prohibition. Cornero's initial project was building and operating the Meadows Club, one of America's first legal casinos, in the 1930s. The success of the Meadows Club eventually waned, but Cornero knew he was not yet finished with the casino industry. In 1954, Cornero laid over half a million dollars on the line to breathe life into his brainchild, the Stardust Resort and Casino.
In the process of licensing Cornero's casino, Nevada officials declared that the businessman would not be eligible to earn profits from his venture due to his previous conflicts with the law. The creative entrepreneur found a way around this decree, however, by leasing the business to a man named Moe Dalitz. Dalitz just happened to be a mob associate.
How the Mob Skimmed Money at the Stardust
“Skimming” was one of the biggest scams pulled by the mob at the Stardust. Every dollar taken in by U.S. casinos is supposed to be reported the government for taxation purposes, but the mob found a way to avoid paying a significant percentage of these dollars: skimming. The illegal phenomenon of skimming occurs when the full amount of cash earned by a business is not reported to the government. Skimming is, essentially, a financial lie to the government via omission.
Stardust mob bosses would walk into the facility's cash counting room and stuff several handfuls of larger bills into their pockets. They would then take the money to the casino floor and convert it into chips. After using the chips to play several rounds on a table game, the swindlers would cash out, thereby “cleaning” their pocket-stuffed cash and covering their paper trail. As a result of this, a smaller-than-actual amount of cash was reported to the feds at tax time. The government knew about it, but it had no feasible way to trace the crime.
Money laundering in casinos is still a problem today. Mobsters and other criminals take “dirty” money, often obtained through prostitution and illegal drug deals, and cash it in for chips. They play for a while, then exchange the chips for fresh money, thereby erasing their incriminating paper trail. Police have more sophisticated methods of capturing money launderers today, but many perpetrators still get away with it.
The government realized that the Stardust's profits were being skimmed and laundered, but it was difficult for them to prove it. Laws forbidding casino owners from entering their own counting rooms and gambling at their own facilities were eventually enacted in an attempt to eliminate the dishonest practice of skimming.
Genting Group's Resorts World: A New Chapter
In 2016, Genting Group will open Resorts World Las Vegas on the property where the Stardust once stood. The new resort will be much larger than the former Stardust. Resorts World is expected to hold 3,500 guest rooms and 175,000 square feet of gaming space whereas the Stardust offered only 1,500 rooms and 85,000 square feet of gaming space. Las Vegas citizens are excited about the new jobs the facility will bring and hope the new building represents a fresh, positive start instead of a return to the older, shadier ways of the Stardust.
Thanks to Bwin.party's Facebook app, those who prefer the smaller, more intimate atmosphere of the Stardust over the new and sprawling environment of Resorts World will be able to keep playing the Stardust games they love. Instead of playing them in the real world, of course, they will be playing them in the virtual world. For now, that will have to suffice.