Tropicana gives sneak preview to Las Vegas Mob Experience

Should a guy kill a casino card cheat or simply beat him until he wishes he were dead?

Such are the decisions that must be made when one is a participant in the Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana, which held a soft opening "preview" Tuesday.

After making a $10 donation to the Keep Memory Alive charity, which supports the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, participants were given "name tags" that boast radio frequency identification technology.

Just for fun, they then could have whacked one another. Or they could have gotten "made," which is like a Mafia pledge week.

The Mob Experience, a 26,000-square-foot high-tech museum, will be enhanced once all of its interactive, 3D imagery and holograms are in place. That will allow people to interact with actors or celebrities on film.

Not to drop names, but James Caan, who starred in "The Godfather," also acted as a guide. He welcomed the "new guys" and told them he has heard good things about them on the street.

Participants began the journey at the mob's beginnings: Prohibition and the opportunities the failed ban on booze provided to those with a little larceny in their hearts.

The tour ended about 45 minutes later with the Las Vegas mob familiar to most people thanks to Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone, who starred in "Casino," the iconic Las Vegas movie based loosely on casino operator Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and enforcer Tony "The Ant" Spilotro.

Along the way participants met Bugsy Siegel, heralded as the father of modern Las Vegas along with Meyer Lansky.

Some of the other gangsters featured include Al Capone and Lucky Luciano.

The displays include a speakeasy, a jewelry store where Spilotro's Hole in the Wall Gang did an infamous smash and grab, and an automobile from the 1940s said to have belonged to Siegel.

Actors play a bouncer, a casino owner, and a mob enforcer.

While Hollywood has lionized mobsters and the media has demonized them, the Mob Experience attempts to humanize them. There are love letters. Home movies. Family photographs and heirlooms.

The Mob Experience will remain open until its March 29 grand opening.

Contact Doug McMurdo at or 702-224-5512.