Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 116

gave the word, and Batista could make a great show about throwing a mobster out of the country. In addition to enhancing casino gambling, Batista also improved revenues of the national lottery by inaugurating daily games. In 1958, things seemed to be on a roll just when Fidel Castro gathered strength for his military takeover. Revelations in the New York Times about Mob involvement in Cuban casinos dampened tourist enthusiasm, as did the fear of impending violence. The names of Jake Lansky Meyer’s younger brother), Salvatore Trafficante, and Joseph Silesi were added to the lists of unsavory participants in the industry. Fidel Castro was born in 1926, the son of an affluent sugarcane planter. He attended a Catholic school in Santiago de Cuba before entering the University of Havana as a law student in 1945. There he began his career as a political activist and revolutionary. He participated in an attempt to overthrow the government of Dominican Republic strongman Rafael Trujillo and disrupted an international meeting of the Organization of American states in Bogota in 1948. He sought a peaceful way to power in 1952 as he ran for Congress; however, the contest was voided when Batista seized power and cancelled the election. In 1953, Castro took part in an unsuccessful raid on the government; he was captured and imprisoned for a year. He was released by Batista as part of a general amnesty program, but he kept up his revolutionary efforts, leading another unsuccessful raid in 1956. His third try was his charm, as he successfully moved through rural Cuba during 1958, attacking Havana at the end of the year and driving Batista from office. When Castro’s forces descended on Havana on New Year’s Eve 1958, there were thirteen casinos in Havana. The hotel casinos represented a collective investment of tens of millions of dollars. Lansky’s Riviera alone cost $14 million. Several owners and operators did not want to join Batista in his hasty exile out of the country, even after revolutionary rioters had smashed up many of their gaming rooms. They wanted to hold on to what had been a very good thing. That would be difficult, however. Castro had waged a revolutionary media campaign that condemned the sin industries of Cuba and their connections to the Batista government. Castro pledged that he would close down the casinos. Castro was good to his word on this score, at least at the beginning. He also stopped the national lottery from operating. Meyer Lansky, on the other hand, pledged that he would work 111