The 1st man on top allencd cox. After failing to comply with a state order to cease and desist, all but one of the gambling ships were seized by law enforcement. Coast Guard craft and sailed out to Cornero's ships to close them down and arrest Cornero.
June 28, Comments. Southern California, for all its miles of coastline, has a remarkably peaceful maritime history. About the nastiest thing that ever takes place off our shores, most people think, is a salty verbal exchange between those confirmed enemies, the sailboaters and the powerboaters.
But it was not so long ago that Southern California coastal waters, particularly the Catalina Channel, were the scene of some comical but deadly earnest battling between the forces of righteousness and the purveyors of sinful pleasure. Battling on behalf of pleasure — and profit — was a canny Italian privateer with the suitably Untouchable name of Tony Cornero, who gained fame as the commander and treasurer of two of our most notorious offshore vessels — the gambling ships Rex and Lux.
His real name was Antonio Stralla, and just when he changed it to Cornero is uncertain. Maybe it was after seeing his first American gangster movie, s s rex gambling ship. At any rate, he was following an established tradition of American navigation: Cornero got his start in California as a Depression rumrunner, piloting Scotch whiskey up from Mexico and down from Canada, beaching his cargoes at Malibu.
This amphibious exercise earned him a million dollars before he was 30 and taught him there was more bread to be made on water than dry land. Captured and interned for bootlegging inCornero emerged from McNeil island penitentiary to find himself bounced out of a job by repeal of the 18 th amendment.
Not about to go straight, Tony scanned the list of things that were still illegal. Gambling looked like the best dodge. The sea had been good to Tony, and he wanted to stick with her. So he plunged the remainder of his bootlegging profits into an aging steamship, which he and a couple of partners refitted with gambling equipment and re-christened Tango.
The ship became one of a dozen gambling havens anchored off the Southern California coast between and It was moored, like the rest video game gambling site them, just outside the three-mile reach of mainland authorities, The Tango prospered, but S s rex gambling ship fell into an argument over management of the ship with his fellow officers. He risked his share of the Tango on a single cut of the cards, and he lost.
Tony resolved thereafter he would run his own ship and his own game. As good as his word, Tony carried his flag to the splintered remains of a four-masted barkentine then being used as a live-bait barge. He named her Rexanchored her 3.
The date was May 5,a day local law enforcement officials would long remember. Southern Californians have always had a special fondness for the sea, but Tony Cornero provided a new attraction — money. He offered his customers roulette, faro, blackjack, stud-poker, high-spade, craps, chuck-a-luck and a Chinese lottery. He installed slot-machines, a commodious horse parlor, and a bingo layout theater at palms casino He commissioned aviators to write R-E-X across California skies in letters two miles high.
Many Hollywood notables were unable to resist the siren call — especially since one of their favorite watering spots, the Clover Youth gambling treatment, had been closed by a reform mayor a few months earlier.
It was to the squirrels, not to the celebrities, that the Rex owed its commercial success. Cornero relished this fact and insisted his games were honest he never shaved a card, never rigged a wheel. Like any worthy commander, Tony was concerned about shipboard security.
He kept about him a sturdy force of men-at-arms, men whose training and equipment which did not exclude machine-guns enabled them to stand effective guard against pirates and saboteurs. But they were less well equipped to deal with the enemy that was preparing to blow the Rex out of the water. District Attorney Fitts had not the slightest interest in the suppression of gambling at sea, a fact he willingly admits today.
His concern was that people might commit crimes in his jurisdiction and scramble to refuge on the gambling ships. Hoodlums had, in fact, done this in after murdering a Long Beach policeman. His strongest suit was brains, not firepower, and he was prepared to play the D.
Tony let himself be taken prisoner, along with 50 of his crewmen. He was immediately freed on bond, but from that day on, for seaborne gambler Tony Cornero, there was no peace. Cornero quickly checked this move by towing the Rex to a spot off Redondo Beach. Still unwilling to battle with bullets, Cornero met the assault with fire hoses. The technique was more spectacular than effective. None of this seemed to bother the loyal patrons of the Rexwho found enough fun and ceasars casino indiana still on board to make their regular visits worthwhile.
But Cornero, after four months in business, found himself commuting regularly between the bridge of his ship and Los Angeles Superior Court. That casino companies dallas s s rex gambling ship to keep Fitts away, but it kept the squirrels away too. They got seasick bouncing through the choppy channel to reach the goodies, and business fell off.
So, early inTony skippered the Rex back toward Santa Monica and waited to see what would happen. What happened was that Cornero, by his persistence, attracted a new and more formidable enemy — state Attorney General Earl Warren. Warren huddled with Fitts and planned a concerted drive against Cornero and the proprietors of other floating crap games.
In July, Warren served abatement orders against the Rex and the three other gambling ships bobbing off California. Two days later he fought off another boarding party, echoing naval history by declaring from the quarterdeck: The raiders never used torpedoes; Cornero never used profanity.
The fatal broadside came from the state supreme court, which on November 20, ruled that the waters off Santa Monica Bay fell under state jurisdiction. Cornero caved in and struck his pennant the following day. Stripped of her treasure of gaming equipment, the Rex was s s rex gambling ship motorized for cargo service in World War II, a sad and somewhat ironic turn for the proud old ship.
One defeat never kept a good Piedmontese down. Tony spent the war as a casino manager in Las Vegas, but inwith the Japanese fleet destroyed and the Pacific again safe for peaceful and law-abiding citizens, he was inspired to take to the sea once more for his fortune.
He obtained a minesweeper named Bunker Hill and rebuilt her in the image of the Rex. To the large compliment of tables, wheels, parlors and slot machines, he added a large dance floor and a foot bar. He dubbed her Lux and anchored her six miles off Long Beach. No product ever had a more ready market, and in the first three hours of operation the Lux took aboard customers.
Buron Fitts was no longer district attorney, but Earl Warren was now governor. Authorities cut off his water taxi service, ignoring the angry catcalls of customers waiting at the Long Beach Pier. Freed from jail under stiff bond, Tony denounced his arrest as illegal. State authorities were not impressed nor was the federal government, which moved into the case.
In January ofU. Coast Guardsmen assisted state authorities in relieving Cornero of his command. Because the Lux had been last minute casino hotel reservations military vessel before finding dishonor she was laid to rest along with the good ships, in mothballs near San Francisco. On April 28,President Truman signed an act prohibiting the operation of any gambling ship in U.
The legislation had been encouraged by the governor of California, with Senator William Knowland sponsoring a corollary act giving the Coast Guard the right to seize not only gambling ships but any vessel or aircraft used to carry passengers to such a ship. It was a relief to pass the buck to Uncle Sam at the time, but California s s rex gambling ship lived to regret it: And the man charged chiefly with sorting out the tangled claims has been none other than Earl Warren, the old seaborne raider himself.
In any event, the barrage of legislation spelled the end of Tony the Floating Croupier and of his offshore competitors. Even in his landlocked years, Tony never apologized for running a gambling ship. Los Angeles civic boosters would like to forget Tony Cornero and the whole gambling ship episode, but there are those who remember Tony — his tenacity and his qualities of leadership — with a certain fondness. Honesty, constancy and independence, alas, do not always assure a man of success under our free enterprise system.
The Cornero in Las Vegas was not the Cornero of old. A good time, he must have figured, to bug out. Cocktails Beer Wine L. Get the latest of Los Angeles Magazine sent to your s s rex gambling ship. Recommended Loading, please wait Instagram Twitter Facebook Contact.The far lesser (but profitable) SS REX was operated as a gambling ship off Los Angeles by Anthony Cornero. Cornero’s premier cruise ship was the SS Rex, which could accommodate over 2, gamblers. The two ships were anchored outside the ‘three mile limit’ off Santa Monica. Cornero, right, operated a fleet of gambling ships that moored off the The S.S. Rex was the flagship of Tony Cornero's offshore gambling. In , he operated the S.S. Rex gambling ship, about three miles off the coast of Santa Monica, in international waters where gambling was legal.