Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 115

skimming. If players were being cheated, however, he knew there soon would be no players. The house odds could give the casinos only enough profits to pay off the generals and the politicians. Games had to be honest. Batista turned to a person who understood this and other dynamics of the casino industry very well--Meyer Lansky. Lansky took over casino operations, and he imported dealers who would work for him and not behind his back. The Mob cleaned things up in all the casinos. Because of World War II and postwar disincentives for foreign travel by Americans, however, the casino activity was rather dormant through the 1940s. Nonetheless, Havana attracted more persons of bad reputation. In 1946, Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano moved in to conduct heroin trade and to be involved with the Jockey Club and the Casino Nacional. Lansky was influential in pers uading the government to expel this competitor. Fulgencio Batista won the presidency on his own in 1940. In 1944 and 1948, he permitted Grau San Martin and Carlos Prio Socarras to win open elections; however, he remained very much a controlling element. In 1952, while a candidate for the presidency, he sensed he had no chance of victory. Batista executed a coup and took the reins of power by force. Subsequent elections were rigged, and Batista remained in power until the beginning of 1959. During this latter period of rule, casino development greatly accelerated. Prior to 1950, only five casinos were in operation, and a brief reform spirit in 1950 led the government to close them. Commercial pressures, however, led to a reopening before Batista conducted his coup. The casinos now offered large numbers of slot machines for play. By the mid-decade, new Cuban hotels were attracting large investments from the United States, as the gambling operations were quite lucrative. Foreign operators, however, still had ties to organized crime members. A major incentive for a renewed interest in Cuban gaming came from the U.S. Senate Kefauver investigations that were exposing illegal gambling operations in the United States. Organized crime members were being run out of places such as Newport, Kentucky; Hot Springs, Arkansas; and New Orleans, Louisiana. At first, they gravitated toward Las Vegas; then Nevada instituted tough licensing requirements that precluded their participation in operations there. Cuba, the Bahamas, and Haiti became desired locations. Four of the five largest Havana casinos were in the hands of U.S. mobsters. As newer properties such as the Havana Hilton, the Riviera, Hotel Capri, and the Intercontinental Hotel came on line, Mob hands were involved in the action. Meyer Lansky was always the leader of the group. He kept the games honest, and he kept the political skim money flowing in the correct directions. When someone got out of line, he 110