Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Heirs of Meyer Lansky Want Compensation for Cuban Casino

HAVANA – The heirs of Jewish mob legend Meyer Lansky want compensation for his nationalized hotel, the Riviera, the seaside home to one of the last casinos built in swinging Havana of the 1950s.

U.S. and Cuban officials on Tuesday opened talks about honoring legal claims against the respective governments that were dormant for half a century and are now under review since the former Cold War foes have restored diplomatic ties.

Although Lansky’s heirs have yet to file a claim, they have been looking into their rights ever since U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a year ago that they would normalize relations, said Gary Rapoport, Lansky’s grandson.

Rapoport, 60, said he, his mother and his uncle are beneficiaries of Lansky’s trust and entitled to compensation. The hotel opened in December 1957 and was nationalized after Fidel Castro’s rebels took over little more than a year later and outlawed gambling as a capitalist vice.

“Trust me, I’m not looking to move down to Cuba and take over the business. I believe my family is entitled to something,” Rapoport said from Tampa, Florida, where he is a banker and sells industrial propane.

Rapoport said he was raised by Lansky after his mother’s divorce and worked in his Miami Beach hotel, the Singapore.

Lansky, nicknamed the Mob’s Accountant, is one of the great figures of Mafia lore, inspiring the Hyman Roth character in “The Godfather: Part II” and dramatized in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.”

Working with former Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, Lansky helped make Havana a gambling destination.

While revolutionary Cuba has erased many vestiges of the Mafia, the Riviera advertises being built by “the gangster Meyer Lansky” and mentions that American actress Ginger Rogers inaugurated the hotel with a show in its Copa Room.

“No other hotel in Havana conserves the swing and flavor of the ’50s as stupendously as this,” its website states.

The Riviera has lost much of its luster, with barely half its rooms typically lit at night despite a tourism boom in Cuba.

Rapoport said he was hopeful the Communist government might favorably view a Lansky-related claim.

“Governments change their mind on a lot of different things,” said Rapoport, who said much of his grandfather’s business was legal and that he would offer a meal, a show and a plane ticket to gamblers who lost all their money. “I’m looking at it as a businessman.” (Reuters)

Engage

  • Events

    Haart to Haart

    Virtual

    Dec 7, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    A conversation with Julia Haart and her son Shlomo, stars of Netflix's 'My Unorthodox Life,' about the new season and much more.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.