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Chapter 6: After Bugsy

Under their partnership Sedway, Greenbaum and Lansky turned the Flamingo into an extremely successful enterprise.  In 1948 alone, they managed to turn a $4 Million profit.  The Fabulous Flamingo - as it was now known - featured lavish accommodations and amenities including air conditioned rooms, lush gardens and beautiful swimming pools and was often credited with creating "the complete resort experience" in Las Vegas - as opposed to merely being a casino & hotel like the other properties in the city.

Since then, the resort has gone through numerous ownership changes - including a group of investors rumoured to have links to a Miami crime syndicate, Kirk Kerkorian - who went on to own the legendary International Hotel, MGM Studios and the original MGM Grand Hotel (which is now Bally's) and in 1972 it was purchased by the Hilton Corporation which renamed the resort "The Flamingo Hilton".

The Flamingo Hilton, Las Vegas circa 1988

Photo Credit: Vintage Las Vegas

Hilton Corporation spun off their gaming properties to Park Place Entertainment which would eventually become Caesars Entertainment.  In 2000, the property was renamed "The Flamingo Las Vegas" and Caesars Entertainment was purchased by Harrah's Entertainment.  Then, in 2010 Harrah's Entertainment became The Caesars Entertainment Corporation, which merged with El Dorado Resorts in 2020.

Also, throughout it's over-70 year history, the Flamingo has undergone extensive renovations and upgrades.  Being that the original hotel had just 105 rooms and was built "courtyard style", a long string of remodels & expansions began in 1953 but the largest ones came after the Hilton Corporation bought the property.

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The Flamingo...then and now:  1959 (left) and 2020 (right)

Hilton embarked on a massive plan of growth that added 500-room towers in 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1986.  In 1990, a 728-room tower was added and in 1993, a 908-room tower was constructed.

The 1993 construction required the original bungalows to be torn down to allow for the pool complex to be expanded to a massive 15 acres.  Also demolished was the four-story "Oregon Building" at the back of the building where Bugsy himself had a suite on the top floor.  The legendary "Bugsy Suite" (or Presidential Suite) included bulletproof glass and a secret escape tunnel that led to the parking garage where Bugsy allegedly always had a driver waiting.

1993 construction on the pool area of the Flamingo Hilton

Photo Credit: Vintage Las Vegas

The Oregon Building at the Flamingo Las Vegas, home of the legendary "Bugsy Suite"

Photo Credit: Vintage Las Vegas

With all of the expansions & renovations over the Flamingo's history, sadly, none of the original architecture or construction exists in present day.  The only real link to the past is a small brick shrine, located directly across from the Garden Wedding Chapel in the Flamingo Habitat.  It includes a commemorative plaque that outlines the history of the Flamingo, tells the story of the "Bugsy Suite" and Siegel's murder in Los Angeles (which still remains unsolved today).

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Billy Wilkerson, the visionary who originally conceived The Flamingo, met a somewhat more "natural" demise.  After returning to Los Angeles following Siegel's murder, he continued running The Hollywood Reporter.  Although he returned to Las Vegas often, he never once stayed at the hotel he helped to create and in 1951, following the birth of his son, he quit gambling.

Wilkerson had been in relatively poor health through the latter half of the 1950's, likely due to excessive smoking.  In 1960, he sold off his remaining shares of ownership in the Flamingo and on September 2, 1962 - just one day short of The Hollywood Reporter's 32nd anniversary - he died of a heart attack in his Bel-Air, California home.