Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2017

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Not yet built, mob museum may get rival

Mob Museum

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, left, and former Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.) prepare to open the doors to the Mob Museum during a news conference at the museum site in downtown Las Vegas this morning. Launch slideshow »

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The mob in Las Vegas

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A new mob war is brewing in Las Vegas. But this one isn’t likely to result in bloodshed.

On one side, you’ve got the long-planned, $50 million downtown mob museum sponsored by the city of Las Vegas and its mayor, former high-profile mob lawyer Oscar Goodman.

On the other, you’ve got three investors, including a former chief financial officer for several local casinos, who are planning their own mob-related display at a Strip hotel, to be called the Las Vegas Mob Exhibition.

As soon as 2011, Las Vegas visitors eager to revel in the world of the Mafia could have two options. According to Managing Partner Jay Bloom, a former New York investment banker, his group plans to have a collection of about 1,000 heretofore unseen artifacts of mob life. The group, which is being aided by the daughter of a well-known mob boss, is moving quickly.

Bloom said in an interview he has received offers from Strip hotels to host the exhibition, which would be comparable in scope to two attractions at the Luxor — “Bodies … The Exhibition” and “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.”

Though no deal has been struck, he said he is confident that will happen soon and that the exhibition could be up within a year.

The 20,000-square-foot exhibition will include things such as home movies and a re-creation of the living room of former Chicago mob boss Sam “Momo” Giancana. Giancana’s daughter, Antoinette Giancana, has signed on as a paid consultant and spokeswoman for the project.

“We’re not going to set out to vilify these guys, and we’re not going to make them saints, either,” Bloom said. “We want to tell the complete story.”

Bloom said the exhibition will cost “somewhat” less than the estimated $50 million price tag for the mob museum, though he declined to be more specific.

Most of the needed artifacts, valued at more than $10 million, are in hand, he said. His group has retained a professional design team, including individuals with theme park and Hollywood experience. And the money is in place.

“We’re a definite go,” Bloom said. “We’re financed. This is as real as it gets.”

The other two partners are Louis Ventre and Charlie Sandefur, the former chief financial officer of the Sahara and before that the New Frontier.

According to records on file with the Nevada secretary of state’s office, Sandefur and Bloom are affiliated with the Las Vegas outfit Eagle Group Holdings. The group’s business license application with Clark County is pending, according to county records.

The exhibition and the city’s mob museum, officially called the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, will both charge an entrance fee, and both will feature a wide range of artifacts and exhibits of mob life. Both have been procuring artifacts from the children and grandchildren of top Mafia bosses and soldiers.

There will also be some notable differences.

The museum will be a permanent fixture. The exhibit won’t, though Bloom aims to have it run for perhaps 10 years or longer.

The exhibition will mostly be about the mob.

The museum, as its formal name suggests, will also aim to tell the story of the federal and local law enforcers who battled the mob and eventually drove it out of Las Vegas. Its organizers are getting items and other support from the FBI.

The museum has signed on the world-renowned museum designer Dennis Barrie, whose projects include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

Bloom said a design team for the exhibition will be announced soon. Giancana added that she, along with Nico Santucci, the owner of a mob-themed restaurant on West Sahara Avenue, will be involved in designing the re-creation of her father’s living room.

Santucci, a former pop singer and nightclub owner, could not be reached.

Bloom, like Mayor Goodman, is convinced the idea is a big money-maker. “As you can imagine, if the city is projecting 600,000 to 800,000 visitors per year (for the mob museum), what would a Strip property do?” he said.

The city’s mob museum, at the site of the former federal courthouse near City Hall, finally appears to be edging toward reality. Interior renovations began recently.

At his Thursday news conference, Goodman took a combative stance on the exhibition, which he said he hadn’t previously heard of: “We’re not afraid of any competition. If Ms. Giancana was smart, she’d give me a call and say, ‘Can I have a little cubby hole in your mob museum?’ ”

Goodman continued: “Ours is professional. This isn’t going to be a patched-up, fly-by-night organization. This is first-class. We have the best people in the world who are helping us plan it.”

Both Giancana and Goodman denied that an old potential connection between them is spurring a rivalry between the projects.

Tony “the Ant” Spilotro — the Chicago mob’s Las Vegas enforcer and Goodman’s erstwhile legal client — has long been suspected in the unsolved 1975 slaying of Sam Giancana.

But Antoinette Giancana, who has theorized that the CIA and the mob were behind the murder, said she didn’t care who Spilotro retained as an attorney those many years ago. Goodman’s involvement with the museum, she said, has nothing to do with her involvement with the exhibition.

“I’m beyond all that,” she said.

Goodman concurred.

“I’m sure there’s no story in that one,” he said.

In fact, Giancana said she’d like to meet with Goodman, perhaps at Capo’s, her friend Santucci’s restaurant, where they play movies such as “The Godfather” and “Casino” to enhance the Mafia aesthetic.

The mob era in Vegas may be long gone. But maybe there will be one more sit-down between two with ties to that past.

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