The Flamingo, a History: In 1944, Billy Wilkerson, owner of the Hollywood Reporter and several of the Sunset Strip’s more popular nightclubs, purchased 33 acres of land just south of the Hotel Last Frontier. He contracted George Vernon Russell to conceptualize what was destined to become The Flamingo Las Vegas, one of the oldest and most prestigious entertainment centers on the Strip. Wilkerson’s bet hinged on the readiness of Las Vegas to replace its once typical sawdust joints with the upscale and far more interesting European style facilities, featuring luxurious rooms and fine dining as well as nightclubs, golf courses, spas and health clubs.
The Flamingo’s biggest roadblock manifested itself in a fairly predictable way, as Wilkerson’s dream outpaced his finances by about $400,000.
It was time to find a partner. In late 1945, a man friendly to Wilkerson, and former patron of his nightclub Ciro’s, returned to Vegas with a few of his own “partners,” lured by legalized gambling and lax betting regulations. His name was Benjamin Siegel and his nickname was ‘Bugsy.’ His attempts to acquire property met with understandable resistance from city officials aware of his criminal background.
His aim shifted to a less pressured environment outside the city limits and The Flamingo project’s needy founder became the ideal target. Wilkerson knew Bugsy only as what presented himself as: an honest businessman with impressive financial resources. Agreements were hammered out and Siegel became a two-thirds stakeholder. He assumed control of the latter stages of the Flamingo’s construction, though his utter lack of relevant experience would prove to cause major difficulties.