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Cornero, Tony (Anthony Stralla), 1899-1995


Anthony “Tony the Hat” Stralla Cornero (1899-1955) was an American bootlegger and gambling entrepreneur from the 1920s to the 1950s. Famous for being the mind behind the Las Vegas, Nevada Stardust resort and casino, Cornero was also known for his affiliation with organized crime. He ran businesses and gambling ships with questionable legality in Los Angeles, California.

Antonio Cornero was born on August 18, 1899 in Lequio Tanaro, Italy. After losing their farm and harvest, Cornero and his family decided to immigrate to the United States. Years later, Cornero’s father died and his mother married her former suitor, Luigi Stralla. Cornero soon took on the aliases Tony Cornero and Tony Stralla when signing onto merchant ships. In the 1920s, he became a rum-runner during Prohibition. Cornero would smuggle cases of bootleg liquor from Mexico to Southern California by using a shrimping business as a cover, however he was caught and arrested. After he was released from prison in 1931, Cornero opened the Ken Tar Insulation Co. as a cover for a bootleg operation, but was eventually discovered by authorities.

Once Prohibition ended, Cornero became interested in gambling as it was legalized in Nevada in 1931. He and his brothers, Louis and Frank, moved to Las Vegas, Nevada that year and purchased land. Together, they opened The Meadows Casino & Hotel, known to be one of the first seven licensed casinos near Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the resort burned down and Cornero decided to move back to Los Angeles, California. In the 1930s and the 1940s, Cornero hoped to legally operate gambling ships off the Southern California coast and into international waters to avoid any interference from United States authorities. He purchased two large ships, the S.S. Rex and the S.S. Tango. The luxurious gambling ships were a huge success until they were forced to close by then-California Attorney General Earl Warren. Cornero sold the S.S. Rex in 1944 to buy the El Rancho and moved to Las Vegas once again.

Observing the growth of hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip in 1954, Cornero bought thirty-six acres on the Strip's north side for $650,000. He envisioned a grand hotel and casino, naming it “Starlight” and then changing it into “Stardust.” Governor Charles Russell did not allow Cornero to obtain a gaming license due to his criminal background, forcing him to lease the casino to a United Hotels Corporation. Although he personally saved three million dollars on the Stardust's construction to the point of allegedly printing his own stock certificates, Cornero was unable to see his plans come to reality. Cornero died from a heart attack on July 31, 1955 while playing craps at the Desert Inn. Jake "The Barber" Factor arrived from Chicago, Illinois to take over his project and the Stardust resort and casino opened on July 2, 1958.


“Anthony Cornero.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, January 2, 2020. Accessed July 9, 2020.

Stardust Resort and Casino Records, 1950-2006. MS-00515. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Smith, Rod. "Cornero never saw his Stardust dream come true." Las Vegas Review-Journal, October 29, 2006. NewsBank: Access World News. Accessed July 9, 2020.