It's been seven years since the news broke that the Eastern Shawnee Indian group was intending on establishing a Las Vegas-type gambling casino in our own back yard in Lordstown. That venture, back then, had a price tag of $300 million and included hotels, restaurants and much more. That whole venture was squashed, and we know now for sure a new casino will be opening the week of May 14th in Cleveland, and next year casinos are set to open in Cincinnati and Columbus. Naturally, our area residents were quite unhappy about all of this while decrying "When will the action happen here in our Valley?" Well, hold on to your one-armed bandit, folks, because there is strong talk that Ohio Gov. John Kasich strongly realizes the anxiety of the people, and wants to assure that a priority also exists right here, meaning a $200 million thoroughbred horse racing track that Penn National is planning to locate in Austintown on Centerpointe property off state route 46 that ties so neatly to the Interstate 80 interchange. The Ohio Senate is diligently working on a casino bill that would also have slot machines available at the Austintown track.
Adding a little bit of history to gambling and our area, some seniors still can recall the glory and the demise of the notorious Jungle Inn that was located in Halls Corners. That area was hastily formed by local gangsters who actually had seceded from Liberty. It made everything convenient and legitimate for the mob.
It was located about two miles north of Youngstown on the then Applegate-Sodom Road near the Hubbard Township line. This area was to become a cornerstone of one of the most infamous gambling dens in the country. In those good old days, Youngstown was commonly known as Little Chicago or Crimeland, U.S.A. The Jungle Inn would have made a great backdrop for a movie. It was launched in 1936 and met its demise in 1949.
Inside this den of sin, we'd find an unbelievable metal gun turret that seemed to protrude toward the action below that included slots, dice, chuck-a-luck, card games, racing boards and even bingo plus a restaurant and bar. Supposedly this was also the place where a young man by the name of Dino Crocetti, a native of Steubenville was employed as a dealer and perhaps as a singer. He performed vocals for the first time at Craig Beach and later became one of the top entertainers ever. But as Dino Crocetti, he was part of the depression era and a dropout and drifter from town to town immersing himself in the gambling world that was so prominent in those days. He had no real successes, as he tried most anything including boxing and was known affectionately as "Kid Crochet." However this kid had some great talent and finally got noticed big time as Dean Martin.
The Jungle became a showplace for gambling, and was ushered in by gangster Blackie Licavoli, who immediately appointed mob Lieutenants twins Mike and John Farrah to run the joint. For all those who at that time resided in the steel valley and outlaying areas and loved to gamble, this was the place to be. The place to meet people, relax and enjoy.
Every good thing sooner or later comes to an end, as did the Jungle. Starting in August,1949, Ohio Governor Frank Lausche decided to give liquor agents the authority to raid the famous gambling mecca, which turned out to be an all out war. Liquor agents were even taken prisoners by the gangsters. Justice finally prevailed though as Trumbull County Sheriff Ralph Millikan arrived and arrested several mob members and all gambling paraphernalia was confiscated.
Thus the tiny hamlet of Hall's Corners thereafter no longer existed and was unincorporated. The Jungle Inn died a nasty death. Years later Mike Farah was gunned down near his home in Warren.
Things are so much different now as the new possibilities of a race track and gambling casino in Austintown are in the news. Who knows, maybe another Dean Martin will be performing there. "Thats Amore!"