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April 25, 2015

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Vegas opens museum to examine its mobbed-up past


Steve Marcus

Members of the San Diego Police Museum Association pose on a 1928 Ford Model A before the Mob Museum’s grand opening in downtown Las Vegas, Tuesday February 14, 2012. The building, a former federal courthouse and post office, was completed in 1933 and is listed on the Nevada and National Registers of Historic Places. It is also one of 14 sites in the nation that hosted the 1950-51 U.S. Senate Special Committees to investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, also known as the Kefauver hearings.

Mob Museum Opens

Members of the San Diego Police Museum Association participate in the grand opening of the Mob Museum in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Mob Museum opening triggers mixed reaction

KSNV coverage of the grand opening of the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas, Feb. 14, 2012.

Visitors doing time inside the newly opened Mob Museum on Tuesday were in no rush to escape and a few even relaxed — in an electric chair.

“I had fun with the machine gun,” said Valerie Landau, 58, of Las Vegas.

“I thought it was incredible and as soon as I get people back to visit, I’m taking them here,” Landau said of her relatives in New York.

Landau wasn’t the only one who thought the exhibits were to die for.

“The shovel for a weapon, that was dope,” said Anthony Tagle, 20, whose favorite aspect of the museum was, “the graphic part where I can see a lot of death and gore.”

Other exhibits on display inside the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement included interactive displays, films and photographs of mobsters from the historic era.

The museum at 300 Stewart Ave. was set up inside a renovated post office and federal building, a project that used $42 million in federal and state tax dollars.

Supporters of the museum and City Council members who secured the funds during a down economy expect the downtown museum to attract tourists.

“It was interesting,” said Darla Poe, a 50-year-old visiting from Oklahoma. “I liked that the courtroom was original and restored.”

Those who live in Las Vegas, like 38-year-old Luke Littell, hope the museum is just another step in the redevelopment of the downtown area.

“I think it’s great to see the rehabilitation of downtown coming to life,” Littell said. “Getting to see rumors turned into reality is a fantastic thing.”

Visitors exiting the museum after the grand opening weren’t all raving.

“I got a short attention span and there’s a lot of reading,” said John Sanders, 55, of Las Vegas, who while inside posed for a picture in the electric chair on display.

Those looking to break up the wordage found a way to eavesdrop on exhibits.

“I like the headsets of the audio recordings of the FBI wiretaps,” said Las Vegas resident Tom Delahunty, who wasn’t entirely satisfied with the museum.

“There wasn’t enough Vegas mob stuff,” said the 45-year-old.

Visitors such as Phyllis White, a resident originally from Chicago, was pleased with the offerings.

“It was amazing,” she said. “There were more artifacts than I could imagine.”

Other fans of the museum were more concerned with quality not quantity of artifacts in the 41,000-square-foot museum.

“It was very realistic,” said 58-year-old resident Robin Martinelli. “I didn’t think it would be so authentic.”

Many of the exhibits favored by visitors were interactive, similar to those that have been featured at the competing mob-related attraction the Mob Experience at the Tropicana.

The Mob Museum is not affiliated with the Tropicana operation that went bankrupt and shut down the interactive portion of the museum in September. The museum portion of the attraction remains open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. There are plans of reopening the Mob Experience's entire attraction under a new name, the Mob Attraction Las Vegas.

Competition or not, the Mob Museum seems to be a hit.

Connie Bobo, a Las Vegan for more than 40 years, has seen her share of Vegas history.

“The good and the bad with the history,” she said, praising the museum’s ability to capture the time period. “I love it, I’ll be back.”

Delahunty, who walked away craving more Las Vegas Mob action, said his overall experience was good.

“Well worth the price,” he said.

Admission into the Mob Museum for Nevada adults and children is $10. Regular price for adults is $18 and $12 for students and children ages 5 to 17.

Seniors, teachers, military and law enforcement are admitted for $14. Sorry, no discount for mobsters.

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  1. I think this is a wonderful idea and am looking to when my family and I will visit it.

  2. A museum dedicated to murderers, thieves, extortionists that's awesome. Certainly something to be proud of.

    This is a travesty. Just because Goodman is nostalgic of his mob lawyer past we get this. Plus they used one of the oldest buildings in town to house it. I hope it fails miserably.

  3. "A museum dedicated to murderers, thieves ..."

    It's not only about the FBI or other law enforcement departments. :)

  4. @ Brianlv (Robert Hess)

    Pretty much ANY group of people given enough time will become romanticized when reflected upon. Vikings are a great example. We almost joke today about the pillaging, plundering, and raping that Vikings did. Not *all* of the barbarity is 100% accurate, but we romanticize it just the same. We don't complain about Vikings used in marketing purposes because enough time has passed that they have become comical. But the idea is the same. I'm sure that if there was a football team called "The Murdering Rapists" there would be plenty of upset. But no, "The Minnesota Vikings" is perfectly acceptable. Even though this is exactly what their name implies. So if we're going to frown upon Organized Crime being celebrated, then we seriously need to reanalyze ALL brands, mascots, icons that we associate ourselves with in life.

    Besides that, the Mob certainly DID in fact do allot of good in some cases. Terms were definitely harsh, but they were venture capitalists in their day that helped drive our economy. They seeded Las Vegas and other cities, and through brutality were also able to perform other functions of justice that modern law enforcement of today and yesterday could not. Most importantly as employers they treated employees of their ventures much better than corporations of today. That's why you could come to Vegas for so many years without having a college degree, but could land a job where you could afford a house and live that American Dream. They knew that they had to retain people to make their businesses run, and did what they could to keep them. Now you have to fight to get and keep a job rather than the other way around. Absolutely there was a great deal of bad that came with the Mob, mainly because of egos and personal battles that resulted in fighting, but there's a good reason that everyone wishes for those bygone days: The skim that helped feed profits to the underlings and unaffiliated shifted to the bosses taking it all for themselves and even canibalizing the entire company in the name of "stakeholders". I don't remember organized crime causing the Great Depression, the Housing Collapse, or any of the other recessions in the 1950's and 1980's or in between. And that's exactly why they still command more respect than current civic or business leaders, and why people "miss" the mob so much.

  5. I can understand that some would not care for this project but fact is this is a major part of our history of this great city.

    It is not just about the criminals, it is about how this town flourished in that time period.

    I wish it well and feel it is another stepping stone to turning downtown around and making it better.

  6. "There's no underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

    H.L. Mencken

  7. How much time has to pass that it becomes o.k. to sensationalize it? Is there going to be a section dedicated to the CRIPS and the BLOODS? Will there be a shrine to Timothy McVeigh?

  8. casino kid....we celebrate Butch Cassidy, Henry Plummer, the Hole-in-the-Wall gang right along side Pat Garrett and the Earps. I know folks from my home town who think that thee should be a shrine to Tim McVeigh and Randy weaver and the Waco victims/criminals.

  9. Neither the Crips, Bloods nor Timothy McVeigh financed or created any casinos or the accompanying union jobs.

    Half of the museum is dedicated to the government officials fighting organized crime as well.

  10. We also celebrate Christopher Columbus also a tyrant who enslaved over five thousand people and was responsible for the near extinction of the Arawak tribe of the caribbean. So if you give part of the proceeds of the crime then you will be sensationalized.

    Just don't make sense

  11. Yes Bob, there is a lot of that information.