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September 2, 2014

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Report: Las Vegas Mob Experience, rival of Mob Museum, to open at Tropicana this year

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Steve Marcus / Las Vegas Sun

Antoinette Giancana, daughter of Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, during an interview at the Las Vegas Sun offices January 25, 2010.

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Dennis Barrie, creative director of the new Mob Museum, talks to reporters this morning at Las Vegas City Hall about three new exhibits that are being designed for the museum, which will have a spring opening in 2011 at the former federal post office/courthouse at 300 Stewart Avenue. Mayor Oscar Goodman, left, said the museum could bring as many as 600,000 to 800,000 visitors a year to the downtown.

The mob is descending on the Tropicana.

The Las Vegas Mob Experience, a museum of organized-crime artifacts, memorabilia and attractions, is to be in place at the Trop by the end of the year. This information was reported today in a story published in The New York Times, which focused on the competing organized-crime attractions in Las Vegas.

We have two mob museums in the works for Las Vegas, of course: The city-backed, $42 million Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (the Mob Museum, in shorthand) at the onetime post office and federal courthouse on 300 Stewart Ave.; and the Las Vegas Mob Experience planned for Tropicana and supported by Antoinette Giancana, daughter of iconic mob boss Sam Giancana, among other members of reputed organized-crime families.

For the first time, the actual site for the mob attraction not backed by the city has been reported. As the Times piece notes, officials representing the Mob Experience have refused to specify exactly where its planned site is located. But as the piece explains, "a document provided by someone involved in the transaction who was not authorized to speak before a planned announcement of the deal next month shows an agreement with the Tropicana Las Vegas, which is undergoing a $165 million renovation."

A call and text message to Tropicana President Thomas McCartney for comment about the project have gone unreturned.

Also noted in the Times piece are a few details of what will be showcased at the Mob Experience. One exhibit is to be called "Final Fate," where a visitor gets "made" or gets "whacked," according to the description.

In addressing the possible threat to the city project by the Las Vegas Mob Experience, Mayor Oscar Goodman is quoted by writer Jennifer Steinhauer as saying, "I am not the least bit worried about them. They are no competition because we are the real thing. Forget about it."

The story does remind that Goodman is a former defense attorney who represented reputed mob figures.

Carolyn Farkas, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Mob Experience, strived to draw a distinction between the two projects.

"Our experience will be very different from theirs," she said. "Theirs is more a law-enforcement accounting; for us it is more a personal view."

The 74-year-old Antoinette Giancana, author of "Mafia Princess" about her life as the daughter of one of the mob's more notorious figures, is working as a paid consultant and spokeswoman for the Tropicana attraction.

In a story published in the Sun in September, the managing partner of the Las Vegas Mob Experience, Jay Bloom, said his group has about 1,000 artifacts related to mob history that have never been made public. The collection is valued at more than $10 million. Bloom's partners are New York stockbroker Louis Ventre, who has known and worked with Bloom for 14 years, and longtime Las Vegas resort executive Michael Unger. Charlie Sandefur, former chief financial officer of Sahara and CFO at New Frontier, dropped out of the investment team in January.

Bloom owns Eagle Group Holdings, the umbrella company for Murder Inc., identified as the company financing the Tropicana project, which Bloom stresses is not purely a celebration of mob activities or practices.

"We're not going to set out to vilify these guys, and we're not going to make them saints, either," Bloom said in September. "We want to tell the complete story."

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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