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Poll: Tourists interested in mob museum

Sunday, April 30, 2006

LAS VEGAS -- Locals may not like the idea, but tourists appear eager to see a historic downtown building converted into a tribute to the history of organized crime, a poll conducted by the city has found.

Pollsters surveyed 600 locals and 300 tourists in Las Vegas to gauge their interest in a handful of possible themes for a museum proposed for a historic building currently under renovation in downtown Las Vegas.

The options included a "behind-the-scenes" look at gambling, a magic museum, a "vintage Vegas" theme, a museum dedicated to Las Vegas icons such as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, and Mafia museum.

Locals told pollsters they would most like to see the museum chronicle "vintage Vegas," described as the architecture, music and figures that dominated the city's landscape from the 1930s to the 1950s.

But more than 70 percent of visitors ranked a mob museum among their top three concepts.

"This confirms my gut feeling that the (mob) museum will be most successful looking at our colorful history," Mayor Oscar Goodman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Goodman, a former mob lawyer, has been an advocate for the idea since first floating it in 2002. He says it will draw people off the Las Vegas Strip and into downtown, an area in need of revitalization. The mayor envisions selling merchandise bearing patrons' mug shots and booking numbers, as if they had been arrested.

"We'll sell more sweat shirts and hats than at the World Series," he said. "I think it will be a huge moneymaker."

But locals don't appear ready to cash in on the city's seedy history.

The poll found only 17 percent picked the mob museum as their top choice. Nearly 32 percent of residents chose the "vintage Vegas" museum.

What eventually emerges at the POST Modern building, a historic post office west of City Hall, could be a combination of those two concepts, said Jason Gray, director of research and development for Strategic Surveys, which did the study.

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