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Freemont Street Vegas and the Mob Museum

Freemont Street and the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, AKA: The Mob Museum

When, I first visited Freemont Street, I was expecting something along the lines of Las Vegas Blvd. A wide street, open sidewalks with the individual casinos standing on their own. Much to my surprise and delight, I found a massive pedestrian covered mall sporting a ceiling of coloured lights (running about four city blocks or 1500 feet in length). I was told that this is the largest screen in the world and operates a light show that takes five to six minutes from start to finish. Before entering any building, I found myself wandering down the street gawking at the overhead light show which was in full swing. Created in 1995, this light show revitalized the area drawing in major crowds to see what many describe as the “world’s most famous neon street”. The main danger is that you might bump into someone since the light show keeps people looking up. The few times I have been there, it has been busy and this time was no different. In short, Freemont Street offers continuous action and lots of surprises. This crowded, lively and entertaining street is unique and in my opinion, a must see if you are visiting Las Vegas.

After walking the length of the street, I returned to my starting point to begin checking out the buildings. First up on my walking stop was the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino. In my first blog entry on Las Vegas, I stated:

It might surprise you to learn that the Hotel Nevada, opened in 1906 and is the oldest casino in Las Vegas. Thanks to a name change in 1955, it is now known as the Golden Gate and is located on the older strip known as Freemont Street. This hotel allowed gambling and liquor sales and was part and parcel of the 1906 naughty section of Las Vegas.

To give you a little more background, the hotel’s website states that at the time of its opening, room and board to stay at the Hotel Nevada was $1 per day. I don’t believe that price included alcohol or the company of a member of the opposite sex for “happy endings”. I am not even sure that meant that you got a room or bed to yourself as having to share when rooms were at a premium, was a common occurrence at the turn of the century.

The hotel got its first electric sign in 1927 and that electric sign was a precursor to the neon adorned signs that grace the casino today. An interesting fact I learned on this visit, is that the Golden Gate had another lesser known name during the 1930s. Originally named the Hotel Nevada when built, it underwent a name change and by 1931, when gambling, after a short hiatus, was returned as a legal activity, the name of the hotel was Sal Sagev. Does that name look familiar? It is Las Vegas spelt backwards. By 1955, as mentioned, the hotel had its final name change and became the Golden Gate. One last fact about the history of this hotel and casino, relates to a roulette bet. The casino has the distinction of having the largest roulette bet placed in Las Vegas ($250,000).

Moving on, I headed to the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino. Wandering into the casino I managed to lose $3.45 on the penny slots but I did meet some interesting people who informed me that I should get the Golden Nugget 24K Select card. One woman was convinced that this rewards card changed her luck. Seeing my skeptical look, she demonstrated by placing a bet on her machine. Low and behold she lost. However, perseverance has its own reward and five pulls later she looked at me triumphantly as she had won all the money she lost and more. Perhaps there is truth to her belief that being in possession of the rewards card was a lucky charm but I was not convinced.

During my stop at the Golden Nugget, while checking out the buffet cost and options, I saw a wedding party standing in line. The groom was wearing ripped pants and a white shirt. The bride was wearing a vintage wedding dress that was several sizes too big and holding plastic flowers that had seen better days. I thought it looked a bit sad at first however, it became clear to me that these people were happy and this was their special event. Whether the wedding outfits, location or circumstances were by choice or necessity, did not matter. What mattered was two people were clearly enjoying their big day. I congratulated them, bought them a drink and moved on.

The Four Queens hotel and casino has quite the glitzy neon sign outside that screams old style Vegas. I love it. The Four Queens is the sister property of Binion's Gambling Hall which is also located on Freemont Street (it is across the street). I learned that the Four Queens hotel does not have resort fees which clearly is a money saver to the guests. The casino has been in operation since 1966 and the penny slots proved to be unlucky for me. Quickly down $5.00, I decided to move on but not before taking a fun filled walk around the casino and checking out the hotel’s onsite restaurants. There are four; Hugo’s Cellar which was quite busy, Magnolia’ Veranda, Chicago Brewing Company (Pizza casual style food) and the Patio Bar.

Exiting the Four Queens, I made my way to the D Las Vegas Hotel and Casino which is the former Fitzgerald Hotel and Casino. Prior to becoming the Fitzgerald in 1987, it was the Sundance Hotel. It has a fascinating history. The Sundance was once owned by people tied to Moe Dalitz who was an organized crime figure. Dalitz owned the land the casino and hotel were built on but his ties to organized crime meant that he would not be able to get the gaming license required to own and run a casino. Consequently, two men by the names of Herb Tobman and Al Sachs, ran the hotel and casino but when they were accused of skimming money from the business, the hotel and casino had to be sold. In 1987, ownership of the hotel and casino went to a management group who renamed the Sundance to “The Fitzgeralds Las Vegas”. In 2012 it was sold again and became the D Las Vegas.

Located at the eastern end of Freemont Street, the casino has a massive amount of slot machines. That means that penny slot players such as myself, have a vast number of machines to choose from and I was able to play at a machine that treated me kindly and allowed me to win $7.00. I say allowed, because I hold the opinion that slot machines are blind luck with no skill attached. With all due respect to the lady at the Golden Nugget, I believe that luck of the spin dictates a win or not.

I want to take you on a little walk few blocks from Freemont St. and introduce you to the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (aka: the Mob Museum). Interesting is an understatement. Not only does it educate the visitor to the criminal history of Las Vegas, it also brings in major mob/criminal events from the past. For example, there is the brick wall that is part of the building against which the St. Valentine’s Day massacre victims were lined up to be shot. A little macabre perhaps but the accompanying literature provided a great overview of what led up to, and occurred, on that fateful day. I had budgeted an hour to be here and found myself there for three hours. There are also interactive displays that engage visitors of all ages. Due to the amount of time I spent in this museum, I could write an entire blog dedicated to exhibits in this building but I direct you to the website for more information and recommend this as a stop if you are in the Freemont Street area.

As always, if you have any comments or additional information to add, please feel free to leave a comment on this blog or contact me at

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