Meet the Mob in Las Vegas

Meet the mob? We're not talking kangaroos here, we're talking the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, aka The Mob Museum. Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Sam Giancana, John Gotti, even Whitey Bulger … they're all there. Appropriately located in the old federal courthouse building in downtown Las Vegas, the courthouse itself is on the National Register of Historic Places. We thought we'd check it out before we left town.  

federal courthouse


Organized crime, “the unlawful activities of [...] a highly organized, disciplined association” is also known in the US as “the mob”, “the Mafia”, “Cosa Nostra”, the “National Crime Syndicate”. Gambling, drugs, booze, prostitution, counterfeiting, bribery, money-laundering, extortion, murder … the mob was (is?) proficient in all areas of illegal activities and we wanted to learn more about it … because why not? After all, we are in Las Vegas and some of the investigations into organized crime were conducted in this very building.


wall of gangsters


The museum is located on three different floors accessible by elevator. Visitors are “Mirandized” as soon as the elevator doors close. The top floor is devoted mostly to the gangsters, their “families” and the development of organized crime in the US. We had the opportunity to have mug shots taken and stand in a line up.


getting booked


The museum explored gangs, especially those formed by poor immigrants looking to make their way, and perhaps their fortune, in a new country. It was Prohibition in the US that provided the opportunity to make big money through illegal distribution and sales of liquor. One display is comprised of a section of the actual brick wall from the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago in which seven Irish mobsters were shot down in a warehouse by Al Capone's men. The actual bullet holes were still evident … a rather grisly sight.


st valentine's massacre wall


The museum's second floor is dedicated to law enforcement: the G-men, later known as FBI agents, that gathered evidence to bring the bad guys to justice. Remember the movies The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Untouchables and Casino? Hollywood and audiences seem obsessed with this theme. Each of these movies had key scenes situated in Las Vegas and always had the Feds chasing the mobsters.


second floor crime fighters


We descended to the first floor which concentrated on scams and skims and ways the casinos and their operators defrauded their customers and the government, as well as how customers attempt to cheat the casinos. We got a lesson in loaded dice and card marking in one exhibit.


loaded dice


In another display, “skimming” scams were explained along with how several casino owners made millions on unreported cash intake and were later brought up on charges of tax evasion.


money skimming


We took advantage of the Tuesday afternoon “locals” special admission price (2 for 1) and apparently, so did several other people, making the museum rather crowded … sometimes uncomfortably so, especially when you're pushing someone in a wheelchair. In general though, the museum was well laid out and quite interesting. There were several informative films and video clips to view. A multi-media display of Senate investigations of the mob was presented in the actual court room of the Federal Building. We had the chance to shoot a faux tommy gun as well as accompany a beat cop on a patrol. We'd recommend this museum as one to visit if you're an adult in the area … and like crime. Some of the photos were particularly graphic and not recommended for kids.


david shoots a tommy gun


We couldn't help wonder though why this museum is so well-funded, but the Las Vegas Art Museum closed due to lack of funding and the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History is floundering. Guess the funding goes to the places that generate the revenues.