Mob museum turf war in Las Vegas heats up

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The Independent Online

Visitors to Las Vegas will soon be able to delve into the city's murky past with the opening of the new "Las Vegas Mob Experience" attraction at the Tropicana Resort, which could start a turf war of its own.

Slated to open later this year, the Las Vegas Mob Experience is billed as the largest collection of authentic artifacts, memorabilia, photos and videos of organized crime ever assembled and is dedicated to the rise and fall of the villains that built Las Vegas.

The exhibition has been compiled with the assistance of the families and descendants of some of Las Vegas's most notorious baddies, including Anthony Spilotro (immortalized in Martin Scorsese's 1995 movie Casino), Sam Giancana (head of the Chicago Outfit in the 1950s), Meyer Lansky (who inspired the character Hyman Roth in The Godfather Part II) and Bugsy Siegel (who inspired The Godfather, the 1984 film Once Upon a Time in America and the 1991 film Bugsy).

Artifacts from the gangsters include Bugsy Siegel's home movies, Tony Spilotro's gun, Sam Giancana's pepper grinder (one of the crime boss's eccentricities was a need to always have good quality freshly ground pepper) and never-before-seen journals from Meyer Lansky.

Exhibition organizers say that the Las Vegas Mob Experience goes beyond a traditional museum, showcasing personal effects and telling the story in an "interactive, theatrical"' setting that uses advanced special effects.

They are also keen to stress the support they have received from family members, who have donated items designed to show a "human side" to the characters.

In opening, the Las Vegas Mob Experience could begin a turf war of its own, battling for visitors against the planned Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement ("the Mob Museum") which is planned to open in 2011.

"They are no competition because we are the real thing," said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, himself a famous defense lawyer for reputed Mafia figures and the driving force behind the Mob Museum, "forget about it."

A spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Mob Experience told the New York Times that while the Mob Museum would focus on law enforcement, the Mob Experience will provide a personal view.