Sam Giancana, the murdered mobster whose daughter is backing the Las Vegas Mob Experience.
By the time you discover whether you’ve been tapped for the path to unquestioned respect and cash handouts, or for a bullet through the brain, it will be too late. But unlike the real gangsters, visitors to the Las Vegas Mob Experience will get a second chance to discover what led them down the path to being “made” as a full member of the mafia, or getting “whacked”.
The exhibition, opening in the gambling mecca later this year, is the dream of the daughter of an infamous Chicago mobster with a reputation as a vicious killer, who was himself murdered.
Like all good mob dramas, the theme park-style experience will not be without a serious rival for its turf. The city-backed Las Vegas Museum of Organised Crime and Law Enforcement plans to open its doors just a few months later with displays such as the wall that was the backdrop to the 1929 St Valentine’s Day massacre, reassembled brick by brick, and a covert FBI recording of a mafia induction ceremony. It promises to “set the record straight” and “take the romance out of mob stories”.
The Mob Experience, to be displayed at the Tropicana casino on the Strip, has no intention of taking the romance out of organised crime. The exhibition, backed by Antoinette McConnell, the 74-year-old daughter of Sam “Momo” Giancana, is described by the organisers as a mafia equivalent of the popular Bodies exhibition of dissected corpses and Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition.
It will display more than 1,000 artefacts related to the mob that have never been made public, including personal mementos. Among the displays will be a recreation of Giancana’s living room. It will also include the Final Fate, in which the visitor gets made or murdered.
McConnell told the New York Times that the exhibition was her dream. “The mafia is something that people can’t get enough of. For some people it is like an addiction,” she said.
The rival Organised Crime and Law Enforcement museum is to open in an old courthouse that was the scene of congressional hearings in 1950 into the mafia’s control of Las Vegas.
The city’s mayor, Oscar Goodman, is the prime mover behind the museum. To add to the rivalry, Goodman was formerly the lawyer to Tony “the Ant” Spilotro, a mobster suspected of being responsible for Giancana’s murder in 1975, shortly before he was scheduled to testify before Congress on links between the CIA and the mafia. McConnell has described that as ancient history.
The city’s museum says it will challenge the “countless myths” that have grown up around Las Vegas, not least what it says is the erroneous claim that Bugsy Siegel was the visionary who transformed a tiny desert outpost. But it promises to be frank about the other roles of the mafia in building Las Vegas, such as its skimming of casino takings to keep them from being taxed.
“Wrong as it was, the skim enabled Las Vegas casinos – and in turn, early Las Vegas – to thrive,” the museum says. “On certain topics, the histories of organised crime and of Las Vegas cannot be extricated from one another. One part history, one part cautionary tale. It’s more than just the story of cops and robbers; it’s the story of Las Vegas and America.”