Mob Museum price is right

Feb. 14 marked the opening of downtown’s National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, better known as the Mob Museum. Where’s the deal in that? In order to understand completely, you have to consider what’s transpired recently in the Mafia-museum biz.

This isn’t exactly the first time someone’s built an attraction based on the mob and tried to make money with it. Just last year, the Mob Experience at the Tropicana gave it a go. The idea sounded good, and there was a decent amount of anticipation leading up to its debut. That is, right up till the time ticket prices were announced. Forty bucks! Sorry, but that kind of tariff in a town where you can see dancing fountains and laser light shows for free just ain’t gonna fly. Predictably, the Mob Experience didn’t draw, and subsequent financial and legal turmoil has derailed it, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, someone at mob attraction No. 2 went to school on mob attraction No. 1, and the Mob Museum opened with a kinder and gentler $18 ticket. But that’s just for the tourists paying retail. There are $4-$6 discounts in place for kids, seniors, military, teachers, students and law enforcement. And the biggest discount of all is for locals. Show a Nevada ID and it’s just $10.

That’s a good relative price, but $10 isn’t a deal if what you’re paying for is no good. Don’t worry, that’s not the case. I took a pre-opening tour and was surprised and impressed by the comprehensiveness of the exhibit. It’s amazingly well thought out, and it’s supported by lots of vintage photos and interactive experiences. Want to listen in on a real wiretap or feel what it’s like to fire a tommy gun? You can do it here, and it’s all included in the price. Heck, just walking around the building itself—the old post office and federal courthouse dating back to 1933—is almost worth the price of admission.

I like to put a per-hour number on entertainment, and this looks like about a two-hour exploration, making it a $5-per-hour play. That’s pretty cheap these days, and there figures to be more in the way of related deals if you pay attention. For example, the Mob Bar around the corner on Third Street isn’t affiliated, but it’s been leveraging the museum opening with various libations specials. Ladies drank free for two hours on a recent Saturday evening. That made for a nice little museum-and-bar parlay, the kind of which I expect more to come.