Elliot Price, a notorious ghost from Vegas past, briefly re-emergesBy John L. Smith, CDC Gaming ReportsAugust 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm You never know where an infamous ghost of Las Vegas past will decide to make an appearance.Rachael Silletti came across one recently while moving boxes in the basement of the Massachusetts home of her beloved 90-year-old grandmother, Margaret Silletti. There, amid possessions collected over a long lifetime, were five tubs of personal materials, photographs and letters and some dusty legal paperwork, once owned by longtime Boston bookmaker and one-time Caesars Palace executive Elliot Paul Price. Many decades ago, Price married Margaret’s cousin, Eleanor, whom everyone knew as “Nana.” Margaret and Nana were as close as sisters, and Rachael’s middle name, Eleanor, honors that friendship. Although Price’s name has been largely lost to Strip history, there was a time he possessed the power of the pen and the behind-the-scenes connections that exemplified much of the Las Vegas casino racket in the 1960s and early 1970s. Price was a bookmaker associated with the Boston mob, but by the time he moved west to Las Vegas much of that shadow appeared to have faded. In that era, Las Vegas was a veritable laundromat for a wiseguy’s reputation.Price was present at the 1965 gathering in Palm Springs of bookmakers and mobsters associated with hidden ownership stakes at Caesars. Others in attendance include Jerry Zarowitz, Genovese gambling czar Anthony Salerno, and handicapping guru Gil “The Brain” Beckley. Known as the “Little Apalachin” meeting, it eventually made headlines and placed Price in notorious company.For some reason, that circle of friends didn’t automatically disqualify Price or Zarowitz from working in Las Vegas. Price was highly regarded around the local sports book circuit, and he really gained steam after joining Zarowitz at Caesars Palace. Zarowitz was connected to Salerno and other Genovese heavyweights.The arrangement wasn’t built to last — even in forgiving Las Vegas. In an era of growing use of federal wiretaps, Price was indicted multiple times on charges related to illegal bookmaking and was eventually forced from the casino front office back into the shadows of the Boston underworld. He died a few years ago of natural causes.Rachael Silletti knew almost none of that shadowed history when she and her dad, James Silletti, opened boxes with photographs of Elliot at the top of his game. “All I really knew is that he used to have an affiliation with Caesars Palace back in the day,” she says. “Something happened, and he had to come home.”As with most things from that era, Price’s Las Vegas long story was more complicated. Not surprisingly, however, the tale includes an attorney named Oscar Goodman.“Elliot Price was a very interesting fellow, very respected amongst his colleagues,” Goodman says. “He was a handsome man, had a deep baritone voice, a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He’s really the first person I ever represented who had any relationship to the black book or the work card process. Sheriff Ralph Lamb pulled his work card, and I was able to go to court and argue successfully that it was taken without due process of law, notice and hearing. That’s one of the few wins, so to speak, that remain a win.”Price was a regular fixture at the Churchill and Rose Bowl stand-alone sports books, which existed before betting on ballgames, boxing matches and horse and dog races was allowed inside casinos.“I felt very close to Elliot,” Goodman says, reveling in the nostalgia of days when bookmakers Frank Rosenthal, Marty Kane and Joey Boston added color to he Las Vegas sporting crowd. “He knew people from all over the country. While he was at Caesars, he brought in high rollers.”After leaving Las Vegas, Price returned to Boston and in the mid-1970s, he was caught up in a Somerville-based horse race-fixing ring crafted by gambling Mel Goldenberg and mobsters Howie Winter and Anthony Ciulla.Price left behind boxes filled with memories of a special time in Las Vegas history.The most famous faces in the photos were easy to identify. Price was friends with heavyweight great Rocky Marciano, who was born in 1923 in Brockton, Mass. Silletti even found a letter to Price written and signed by the popular, undefeated champ, who died in 1969.There were also photos of Price mugging it up with Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles and actors and entertainers whose stars dimmed with the passing years.There may be a hoodlum or two in the pictures — or maybe even a Nevada politician. Silletti is not a mob expert. She’s a hard-working bartender. But the photos and letters and even the 1971 indictment that lists Price along with Zarowitz, Rosenthal, Sandy Waterman, and Marvin Sillman have her intrigued about the tangential connection to Las Vegas past.“I think it’s kind of interesting to find out where I come from and things about my family,” she says.There’s also something magical about it. Men in suits, women in gowns and furs. Cocktails in hand, smiling for the camera, gone now but once very much alive and on top of the world.“Looking at the pictures, the photos give me a sense of nostalgia,” says Silletti, who at 30 has visited Las Vegas just once. “The photos make me wonder what they were doing, how much fun they must have had. I’m kind of jealous, really, a little envious. They didn’t have all the technology, but they had an awful lot of pure fun, old-fashioned fun.”She’d like to hear more stories about her distant uncle. She also wonders about some of the other faces in those photos. She’s interested in hearing from anyone with first-hand memories of Price and his circle of associates and can be reached at email@example.com.Silletti is nostalgic, and Goodman knows how she feels. He says he misses those days, too, and his old client.“It’s the history of Las Vegas,” Goodman says of the bookmaker who was briefly on top. “They have their 15 minutes in the sun, then they slide off the map.”On rare occasion, they make a brief comeback — if only in the dusty memories of a mostly forgotten time.John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist an author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.