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Tony Accardo, né Antonino Leonardo Accardo (1906-1992), is credited with reviving and expanding the Chicago Outfit’s gambling business in the 1940s after the organization’s head Paul “The Waiter” Ricca named him underboss. Accardo himself had his hand in various gaming enterprises before and after, too.
Accardo is the great-grandfather of the National Football League’s Bosa brothers:* Nick, defensive end for the 49ers and Joey, outside linebacker for the Chargers.
As early as 1940, Accardo and some Outfit partners owned and operated the prosperous Owl Club, an illegal casino-nightclub in Calumet City, Illinois, on the corner of Douglas and Plummer avenues.
The Mobster-gambler also ran book, oftentimes under the name Joe Batters, a nickname Al “Scarface” Capone had bestowed upon him for his prowess in thrashing people with a baseball bat. In the early 1940s, for example, Accardo conducted a bookmaking enterprise out of the Ogden building at 192 N. Clark St. in Chicago’s Loop.
Not only was Accardo an operator of games of chance; he also was a player and thus, a gambler in both senses of the word. Reportedly, he was one of the best patrons of his own joint, the Owl Club. Even when he older and less mobile, he kept up the activity, placing bets via the telephone.
While underboss, Accardo shifted the Outfit out of labor racketeering and into other areas of organized crime, including gambling. He pushed the syndicate into three specific areas: slot machines, wire service and casinos.
Slots: The Chicago Mob broadened its footprint by placing slots in various establishments beyond the main street gambling house. These included gas stations, restaurants and bars and the group’s favorite targeted outlet, social clubs and fraternal organizations. The Catholic War Vets, the American Legion Posts, the CIO Steel Workers Club, the Polish Democratic Club, and the Italian American Republican Club, are just some of the many local ones.
After successfully flooding its territory in and around Chicago with slots, the Outfit expanded geographically. It hit the neighboring cities first, then nearby states and eventually Nevada.
“Accardo made sure that all the legal Las Vegas casinos used his slot machines,” wrote John William Tuohy in the article “Accardo.”
Wire Service: During the mid-1940s the Outfit took over the Continental Press Service, the wire service that distributed race results throughout the U.S. It did so by killing the operator, James Ragen, after he’d refused to partner with the Chicago Mob.
Once under its control, Continental “became so big and lucrative that an investigating Senate committee later called it the ‘life blood’ of the syndicate,'” reported the Chicago Tribune (Nov. 18, 1984).
Casinos: Three, during the 1950s, the Outfit pursued gambling in a bigger scale. It moved into owning stakes in and skimming millions from casinos. It stuck primarily to legal gambling jurisdictions, first Havana, Cuba, while that lasted, and then Nevada. For instance, by 1961, Chicago owned controlling interests in the Riviera, Stardust, Fremont and Desert Inn, in Vegas.
Despite having a major hand in the Outfit’s gambling (and other lines of business), Accardo always denied being one of the organization’s members never mind a boss. Instead, he claimed he merely was a beer salesman for a Chicago brewery.
* How Accardo and the Bosa Brothers Are Related