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1929 - 1930

Al Capone and St. Louis Dutch muscle their way into partnership

An early advertisement in THE GONDOLIER, a Miami Beach magazine, describes the Floridian Hotel as "One of Florida's finest hotels standing majestically on the shore of Bay Biscayne. Rich in beauty, hospitality, inviting and just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean; with cuisine of the finest. The Floridian Hotel is the extreme in accomodations. Arther Childers, Manager."

The ad did not dare mention that on the tenth floor of the hotel was a full-blown casino owned in part by Al Capone.

Records at the US Playing Card Company Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, show that the Floridian Casino chips were shipped to distributor B.C. Wills in Detroit on December 9th of 1929, in denominations of: 1, 10, 25, 50 and 100.

The Floridian Hotel and Casino opening night show included such headliners as Jack Benny, Sophie Tucker, Eddie Cantor and dancer Caesar Romero. Ted Lewis was also a regular performing at the Floridian.

The Floridian's gambling scene began with Arthur Childers, a high-roller from North Carolina. Childers took control of the hotel and was soon elected to the City Council of Miami Beach. Then appeared a Childer's henchman, Bert Moss. Moss had substantial gambling interests in Detroit, and had big ideas along with the capital to back up those ideas.

Moss soon turned the Floridian Hotel patio and lawn into a nightclub and gambling casino, based on the belief that Councilman Childers could deal with the heat that illegal gambling may draw. Childers could not prevent the ultimate closing of the casino, but with the vast amount of money at risk, Moss built a better casino on the propery.

Moss then took over the ninth floor of the hotel and rigged an ironclad security system that was almost impossible to penetrate. Gambling patrons would ride an elevator to the ninth floor and from there they would walk up a flight of stairs to knock on the door of what appeared to be an ordinary hotel room. If approved by the doorman, the guests were allowed to enter and directed into what seemed to be a closet. Through this closet they walked into the Floridian Casino.

Childers, Moss and their cronies were able to keep the local law enforcement away, but they were not successful in dealing with their own kind. Al Capone, and another gang chief, St. Louis Dutch, forced themselves into a partnership where Capone held 25-percent of the action.... and that was the beginning of the end of the Floridian Casino.

Compiled from a 1961 Miami News article by Jack Kofoed; late-1929 and early-1930 ads from The Gondolier; Historical Society Museum Archives of South Florida and personal correspondence from Miami Beach businessmen in 1930.

Some of the actual dates as to when Childers. Moss and Capone became active are a little sketchy (especially the patio operation and it moving to the tenth floor), but it's the US Playing Card Co. Museum records showing the date of shipment along with dated correspondence mentioning Capone, the casino and his other gambling interests on Miami Beach that at least give us proof as to when the casino was in operation.

John Benedict


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