Howard Hughes was famous for many things. He was for a time the richest man in the world. He was a pioneer aviator. He was a Hollywood movie mogul. He also was for a time a major player in the world of Las Vegas casinos. Howard Hughes always made a splash whenever he entered into business venture and that was certainly the case when the billionaire began buying up property left and right in downtown Las Vegas. The city and all its inhabitants embraced Howard the Amazing Mr. Hughes to its collective bosom. After Hughes arrived there, income shot up by as much as 25 percent. Howard Hughes quickly gained the trust of the gambling city. His big mistake was in thinking that he could return that trust.
Many of the biggest and most popular casinos in Las Vegas were soon in the hands of Hughes: The Silver Slipper, the Landmark, and the Sands. The mob thought it was like manna falling from heaven because he was buying the casinos at inflated prices, and since they were coming under increasing pressure from the feds to clean up the city. The mob made huge profits not just from cheating, but also from skimming off the top of the perfectly legal profits.
It wasn’t long before Howard Hughes’ holding in Las Vegas accounted for nearly one-fifth of all the gambling tax revenue coming into the entire state of Nevada. The man was simply huge; well on his way to becoming the Pope of Las Vegas. This was still a few years before Howard Hughes would go completely loopy, but even then it was apparent that he was not the business man he used to be. Inconceivably, Howard Hughes took it upon himself to reform the town popularly known even then as Sin City. For some bizarre reason perhaps known only to him, Howard Hughes decided to run all the prostitutes out of Las Vegas. This idea became one of his many obsessions.
Even more oddly, he also kept many of his mob connected employees firmly in place and employed at their powerful posts within the casinos. Imagine a billionaire who wanted to keep the mob element inside his casinos, but to get rid of the prostitutes? What exactly was he thinking the high rollers and Sin City dwellers who were spending rolls of cash in his casinos were wanting to do when they got tired of gambling? Talk about Bugsy Siegel with the old timers over a cup of coffee? It was nuts. Howard Hughes attempted to turn Las Vegas into a family friendly site and run the casino with the idea of legally boosting profits by as much as twenty percent. This was not going to happen.
The fact that he was never able to get those profits above 6% probably explains why by the end of the 1960s his casinos were hemorrhaging money. Before too long he’d sold them off and the mob returned even more powerful than they’d been before he arrived.