November 28, 2014 14:30 UTC

USA

Mob Museum Hits Vegas, but It's No Sure Bet

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las VegasThe National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las Vegas
x
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las Vegas
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las Vegas

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Shirley Griffith. Today we take you to the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. The museum opened earlier this year in America’s gaming capital – Las Vegas, Nevada. Christopher Cruise went there and has our report.

(MUSIC)

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Las Vegas is famous for excitement, entertainment and casinos, businesses where lots of money can be won and lost. The city is not known for its arts or cultural organizations. But Las Vegas now has a world-class museum. It is the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. It tells about organized crime and one of the most famous crime groups: The American Mafia, also called the mob.

The Mob Museum is both informative and entertaining. It is filled with well-documented historical displays and interactive exhibits. When I visited, children and adults were enjoying the museum. It is one of the few places in Las Vegas that does not have slot machines or other games of chance -- except in its displays.

The Mob Museum opened this year on February fourteenth -- Valentine’s Day, an important day in Mafia history. It was on Valentine’s Day eighty-three years ago that the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened. Seven members of the Bugs Moran gang were shot and killed in Chicago, Illinois.

The killers belonged to a competing group headed by Al Capone. Al Capone was one of the most-feared and best-known criminals of the time. News of the killings appeared in newspapers across the country.

Brick wall at Mob Museumi
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
06/11/2012
Brick wall from the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
The Mob Museum has the brick wall where the seven men were lined up and murdered. It is used as a screen for a short film about the killings. It is blood-covered and marked with bullet holes.

(MUSIC)

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place long ago. But organized crime is still a problem. Last year, federal agents arrested more than one hundred twenty individuals said to have connections to the Mafia. The charges included murder, drug trafficking and illegal gambling.

The Mob Museum says “there are two sides to every story – and then there’s the truth.” The museum tells the story of the Mafia’s effect on Las Vegas and the nation, and the relationship between the Mafia and law enforcement.

It is not possible to tell the history of Las Vegas without noting the influence of organized crime. The city would not be what it is today if not for the Mafia. The group was important in the creation of modern Las Vegas, helping to build it up from a small town in the desert to an internationally-known city.

Las Vegas is known for destroying old buildings and putting up new ones in their place. Yet the Mob Museum is in an historic, old structure that once held a federal courthouse and a post office.

On November fifteenth, nineteen fifty, a committee of the United States Senate held a hearing in one of the building’s courtrooms. It was the seventh in a series of fourteen hearings about organized crime held nationwide in nineteen fifty and fifty-one. The hearings were called to publicize the workings of the Mafia and help law enforcement bring it under control. As part of repairs to the building, the second-floor courtroom has been made to look exactly as it did sixty years ago.

As a result of the committee hearings, many mobsters moved their operations to Nevada. That is because gambling was permitted in the state, but illegal in other states. The Mafia made a lot of money from gambling, as well as the sex industry and alcohol sales.

The Mob Museum tells how the Mafia grew out of American cities over a century ago. Many immigrants who settled in cities were hard-working and wanted to succeed. But instead of traditional roads to success, some chose a life of crime. Many, however, died because of their decision or were jailed for criminal activity.

Museum displays show the bloody violence of the Mob. They also show how federal agents wire-tapped telephones and listened in on the plotting of mobsters and how they “skimmed,” or stole money from Las Vegas casinos. Museum visitors can fire a machine gun – although it does not use real bullets.
Electric chair at Mob Museumi
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
06/11/2012
Electric chair at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas
They also can sit in a real electric chair. Before sitting down, I made sure the chair was not connected to an electrical outlet.

(MUSIC)

Carolyn G. Goodman is the mayor of Las Vegas. Her husband Oscar formerly held the position. Before Oscar Goodman was elected mayor, he provided legal representation to suspected members of the Mafia.  Lawyers who represent such suspects are known as “mob lawyers.”

From the nineteen sixties through the nineteen eighties, Mr. Goodman represented some of the men believed to be top Las Vegas gangsters.

Mr. Goodman says that during his term in office, he began planning for the museum. He told VOA, “It is my vision, my baby, my project.” He says he wanted to find a way to bring people and jobs to the city’s downtown area.
Las Vegas exhibit at Mob Museumi
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
06/11/2012
Las Vegas exhibit at the Mob Museum
Most Las Vegas casinos are on what is called the Strip, far from the center of the city. There is not much to do in downtown Las Vegas. However, a tourist attraction called “The Fremont Street Experience” is just a short walk from the museum. About fifteen million people go there every year to gamble, watch musical performers and other activities.

Across the street from Mr. Goodman’s mayoral office stood a former courthouse. He negotiated with the federal government to take control of the building. The government sold the building to the museum for one dollar. Mr. Goldman told VOA his city is the best place in the country for a museum about the Mafia.

OSCAR GOODMAN: “You know, Las Vegas is different than any other city because of where we came from. Basically we are a product of the Mob, who moved here from other places. And I said this would be a great place to have a Mob Museum.”

Years ago, some Italian-Americans were reported to be heading organized crime groups in the United States. Mr. Goodman admits Italian-Americans did not like the idea of a museum about the Mafia.

OSCAR GOODMAN: “There was an awful lot of resistance in the beginning that we would be glorifying the Mob, or that certain ethnic groups would be targeted and it would be defamatory towards them but, I said ‘No, it is going to be an even-handed presentation.’”

But Mr. Goodman says none of the Mafia suspects he represented in court objected to the Mob Museum. In fact, he says, some of them wanted to donate materials to the museum, hoping their story would be told there.

(MUSIC)

The Mob Museum cost forty-two million dollars. Thirty million of that was spent to restore and repair the old building. Nine million dollars in federal, state and local money was used to pay for the project.

But a group called the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has objected to the use of tax money to create the museum. It says the museum is evidence of pork-barrel spending and irresponsible government at a time when many families are struggling. The group is concerned that, if the museum does not have enough paying customers, tax dollars will be used to support its continued operation.

Mr. Goodman told VOA that critics of the museum can, in his words, “go jump in a lake as far as I’m concerned.”

The people who designed the museum also worked on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. Both are successful businesses.

At one time Mr. Goodman hoped that as many as eight hundred thousand people would visit the Mob Museum every year. Now, museum officials hope the number is closer to three hundred thousand visitors. Executive Director Jonathan Ullman told VOA the museum will meet or exceed that number. He says it will make a profit as long as there are at least two hundred sixty thousand visitors every year.

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement is open seven days a week. Adults must pay eighteen dollars for admission. Children and teachers pay less. So do older adults, police officers, Nevada state residents and members of the military.

A single visit is not long enough to see, read and hear all that the museum has to offer. A visitor could be occupied by the museum for days. There are exhibits on activities of organized crime throughout the world. Another exhibit shows some of the misinformation about the Mafia in the media and movies. Mr. Goodman has said he wanted the museum to be “a real museum with a real connection to history.”

(MUSIC)

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Christopher Cruise wrote and presented our report. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I’m Shirley Griffith. You can see pictures and videos of the Mob Museum from our visit on our website VOASpecialEnglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Laurent from: France
06/19/2012 2:31 PM
In Amsterdam, there is a sex museum, in London, a horror museum... What do all these mind ? Why a Mafia museum ? Our democraties accept to show many things. It'S a good thing. But we aren't forced to go on. And how is really organized this museum ? Does it emphasize Mafia or learn to the visitors how this organisation prospered in America ? And how America restrike back them ?


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
06/12/2012 10:06 PM
I disagree at Mob museum, these kinds of exhibitions. Murder, drug trafficking, illegal gambling, sex industry and alcohol sales. None of them is allowed in society. I don't want to take my children there. Are we allowed to do anything if sales meet its cost? Even an anti-humanity things? Economy first?

In Response

by: everytwo from: WA
06/14/2012 5:16 AM
maybe you are right, but one day your children would know that, as early as possible to let them know about reality is good to them.

In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
06/15/2012 3:56 AM
Thank you for your comments. You have a good reason to say so. I agree children should look at the reality and then learned about their future. One thing I concerned is that what the initial aim of building this museum was in Begas. It wasn't to show people the reality and educate children, but to invite many tourists and activate the center of Begas. I hope Mob aren't showed as somewhat hero in order to attract audiences.


by: Ryo
06/12/2012 6:41 PM
Las Vegas is one of cities I want to go to in the US. Anyway, I cannot imagine such a Mafia musium is in my home country.


by: FRANZ from: BRAZIL
06/12/2012 2:12 PM
I think this museum is a good idea. When I think Las Vegas I think about its history. Like another cities that has a museum as option for tourists Las Vegas has more one too. I don't know if in US there is a museum about spying or a museum about CIA.


by: BIJU.P.Y. from: SOUTH INDIA
06/11/2012 5:04 PM
The museum is indeed a mirror against crime and violence. More interesting is that American people enjoy watching it. America has managed to line up them in tune with it's national motivation. Our English professor used to say: 'One man can take a horse to the river, but hundred men can't make it drink'. But I'm afraid how it is going to affect the young minds there. Thank you.

Learn with The News

  • Audio North Korea Warns of Punishment for US, Allies

    North Korea said it would punish countries that supported a UN resolution condemning North Korea's human rights record. The recent U.N. committee vote called on the Security Council to send North Korea to the International Criminal Court for suspected violations, including torture and murder. More

  • A Libyan military soldier fires his weapon during clashes with Islamic extremist militias in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Government troops entered central Benghazi Wednesday after nearly 10 days of fighting Islamic extremist militias, a mili

    Audio Unrest, Abuse Prevent Solution in Libya

    Amnesty International is condemning all sides in Libya for human rights abuses and violations of international law. The rights group is calling on militia commanders to end the abuses. But that call is unlikely to have much of an effect on the commanders, who have never been punished. More

  • New members of the Afghan National Army attend their graduation ceremony at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 23, 2014.

    Audio US Says Military Operations in Afghanistan Remain the Same

    Also in the news, India-Pakistan tensions remain at a major South Asia conference in Kathmandu, Nepal; Hong Kong police arrest student leaders and clear streets around Mong Kok; The Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) of Colombia frees two soldiers to restart peace talks with the government. More

  • Video Thanksgiving, a Traditional American Holiday

    Thanksgiving is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of November. The month of November comes in autumn, the main season for harvesting crops. Thanksgiving is an autumn harvest festival like those found in many cultures. It is viewed as the most traditional of all American holidays. More

  • A flock of 30-pound tom turkeys mill around in the barn at  Raymond's Turkey Farm in Methuen, Mass.,Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006. The 60-acre farm expects to sell about 9,000 turkeys this holiday season.(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    Audio Turkey: A Case of Mistaken Identity

    Many think the bird comes from the nation of Turkey. But turkey is not from Turkey. In fact, the fact that the turkey bird is called by that name is one big mistake. Find out in today's Words and Their Stories. More

Featured Stories

  • Battle of Cold Harbor

    Audio Strong Defense at Cold Harbor Gives Lee His Last Major Victory

    After Northern forces defeated Southern troops at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Vicksburg, Mississippi, General Ulysses Grant decided to hit the Confederates with the full force of the Union armies. The fight did not go as he expected. But General Grant was resolved to defeat the Confederates. More

  • Alzheimer brain

    Audio East Meets West to Treat Alzheimer's Patients

    But researchers in California say a new way of treating Alzheimer’s disease is showing promise for reversing some of that memory loss. The new treatment combines western medicine with eastern philosophy – ideas rooted in Asian religions. More

  • Mr. Van Rijsselberghe worked on the project with scientists from the Free University of Amsterdam.

    Video Dutch Experiment Grows Vegetables in Sea Water

    Due to rising sea level, farmers are increasingly unable to use fields close to the sea. A farmer in the Netherlands is growing small, but healthy and tasty crops in a mixture of fresh and salt water. Farmers in Pakistan may soon be growing Dutch potatoes in areas affected by rising sea waters. More

  • Jonathan Evans Performs with Bonerama

    Video With Bonerama, Three Trombones Lead the Big Parade

    The New Orleans-based group brings together funk, rock, blues and jazz, creating a gumbo for the ears. Bonerama has horns like many bands. But, unlike most groups, the trombone players lead this band. Reporter Jonathan Evans performed with the band and wrote about it for American Mosaic. More

  • A line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is displayed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

    Audio Lincoln's Words at Gettysburg Still Have Meaning

    On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln said no one would remember his speech at a battlefield cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. But Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address remains one of the most important speeches in U.S. history. | The Making of a Nation More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs