The Times podcast: The story of L.A.’s glitzy gambling boat kingpin

Gaming chips, dice and a matchbook rest on a photo of a man
Artifacts from the S.S. Rex — gaming chips, dice and a matchbook — rest on a photograph of the gambling boat’s owner, Tony Cornero.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

This story of Los Angeles’ 1930s era of gambling boats — and Tony Cornero, the underworld boss at the center of the action — is a portal to another version of the city, one that’s glamorous and seedy.


Business reporter Daniel Miller spent months chasing down the tale, poring over FBI records, reviewing newspaper accounts and interviewing the few people alive who remember when barges bobbing off the coast of Santa Monica offered the chance at a sea-sprayed jackpot.

He tells us about this world of water-cannon gangsters and floating vice dens — which paved the way for the popularity of Las Vegas and dramatically met its end 82 years ago this month.

Host: L.A. Times business reporter Daniel Miller

More reading: The secret history of L.A.’s glitzy gambling boat kingpin — and the raid that sank him

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, senior producers Denise Guerra and Shannon Lin and producer Melissa Kaplan. Our engineer is Mario Diaz. Our editors are Lauren Raab and Shani O. Hilton. Our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.