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The Nation

March 30, 2011

Las Vegas embraces mob roots with new attractions

(Continued)

LAS VEGAS —

The publicly-funded mob museum, meanwhile, is slated to open in December at a downtown Las Vegas courthouse where a detailed mob hearing that helped expose organized crime to ordinary Americans was held in 1950.

The $42 million museum started as an effort to save one of Las Vegas' few historic buildings. It's amassed a wide collection of gangster artifacts, including the wall from Chicago's St. Valentine's Day massacre, the only gun recovered at the mass shooting and the barber chair where hit man Albert Anastasia's life came to an end in a 1957 New York murder.

"This isn't some lampoon," Goodman said. "It's not a gimmick. This is going to be a real museum."

The museum will highlight money laundering schemes, mob violence and the role organized crime played in Las Vegas and other cities.

Both Las Vegas attractions expect to lure hundreds of thousands of visitors each year driven, at least in part, by the nation's unquenched fascination with the silver screen mob bosses of "Goodfellas" and "The Godfather."

"There is a certain excitement to think people who had done illegal things and got away with it were in charge here," said Alan Balboni, a Nevada historian.

Neither attraction has sidestepped controversy.

The Tropicana's Mob Experience was recently sued by the daughter of notorious gangster Sam Giancana over an alleged breach of contract involving the purchase of Giancana's furniture.

Critics have also slammed the attraction for being too deferential to the family members of the gangsters. The exhibition glosses over the mob bosses' violent histories while praising them as handsome fathers. In one room, an actor asks visitors how a petty casino thief should be punished for his crime. "Do we use a shovel on him?" the actor asked an encouraging crowd during Tuesday's grand opening.

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