How Did Las Vegas Start?
Written by Phoebe
Published date · March 31, 2022 | Last Updated · Dec. 14, 2022 | Read Time: 3 mins
Las Vegas, a desert town based on casinos, betting, and all-around fun, has attracted millions of tourists and billions of dollars in revenue to the state of Nevada. This famous city has become a staple in films, tourism and has managed to do so all within a century of existence! Las Vegas, or simply Vegas, is the 26th most populated city in the US. However, it is home to some of the most famous casinos on the planet, with the Las Vegas strip hosting over 30 world-renowned establishments. We explore the history of Las Vegas, how it started and why it still is one of the most popular tourist destinations and bucket-list locations of all time.
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Las Vegas: The Beginning
What is presently known as Vegas was formerly a railroad town with one of the country’s primary networks connecting it to other towns. In 1910, Nevada made gambling illegal, but it was nevertheless practised in saloons and illegal underground casinos. Criminal organisations had already established roots in the city by the time gaming was permitted again in 1931. Construction on the huge Boulder Dam (later dubbed the Hoover Dam) also began in 1931, attracting hundreds of employees to a location just east of the city. To lure project employees, casinos and showgirl venues sprung up on Fremont Street, the town’s only paved route. Fremont street was in the 30s what the Las Vegas Strip is today when you think of casinos. Fremont’s “Glitter Gulch” flashing lights were powered by inexpensive hydroelectricity when the dam was finished in 1936.
Las Vegas: The Strip
The first resort, the El Rancho Vegas, was established in 1941 on a stretch of land just outside the city limits. Other resorts and casinos quickly followed, and the stretch of roadway was dubbed “The Strip.” Mobs and criminal organisations aided the rise of Vegas, and money from organised crime was blended in with money from more legitimate investors, making the strip what it is today! The infamous Bugsy Seigal pushed and supported building plans for resorts on the strip, and his vision continued on after he was assassinated in the late 1940s. As a result, mobsters helped construct the Sahara, the Sands, the New Frontier, and the Riviera in the 1950s and 1960s.
Between the 1940s and the 1960s, Las Vegas became affiliated with Cold War installations, the most renowned of which was the Nevada Test Site. Hundreds of nuclear bombs were exploded above land, which added to tourists coming to witness the mushroom cloud explosions. The renowned “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign in 1959, which still stands today, added to the allure of Vegas and was depicted in films and pop culture for years to come. Tourists were lured to the hotels and casinos by singers and celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and most famously Elvis Presley, as well as rows of slot machines and gaming tables, with 8 million visiting each year by 1954!
Las Vegas: Casinos and Tourism
After the 1950s, Las Vegas distinguished itself from other world-famous gambling destinations such as Reno and Monte Carlo. In the 1960s, it drew more attention to the multiple resorts such as The Flamingo, Dunes, Sands, Stardust, and Desert Inn, which generated even more income for the city. In the 1970s, Las Vegas was a bustling metropolis with 24-hour gaming, showgirls, casinos, restaurants, and neon-lit hotels. The Mirage was developed in the late 1980s and grew into Vegas’ first ‘mega-resort’. All the way up to the end of the century, the strip underwent another transformation where older casinos were demolished to make way for large complexes inspired by Paris, Egypt, Venice and Rome. Today the fabulous Las Vegas is home to some of the most iconic spots in casino history. While delivering amazing entertainment for tourists, it has also provided jobs for Nevada citizens and economic benefits for the state. To his day, the majority of those employed in Las Vegas work in the casino and entertainment industries – perhaps unsurprisingly as Vegas is still one of the world’s most vibrant and heavily visited cities!
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