The History of Las Vegas make interesting reading. It can be seen as a rags to riches transformation from an oasis to mega gambling destination.
The Early History of Las Vegas
This photo of Las Vegas was taken in 1906, the year after the rail road came to Las Vegas in 1905. Prior to that there had been some early Mormon settlements and even earlier it was used as a staging post for merchants trading between California an Mexico. Whilst it is in the Mojave desert it is an oasis otherwise there would never have been any settlement of any kind. Las Vegas translates from Spanish as “the meadows”.
Las Vegas was an ideal refuelling and rest stop for the Union Pacific Railroad. Hence the real development of Las Vagas began but it was slow to start with. In 1911 Las Vegas was incorporated as a City.
A kickstart to the came during the early 1930’s for two reasons. Firstly, the depression had caused mass unemployment but the Hoover Dam, or the Boulder Dam as it was then known began construction on the Colorado River. Thousands of workers migrated to the area. The second thing was legalisation of Gambling in Nevada in 1931 when the first gaming licence was granted to a Las Vegas Club. The club was on a dusty desert strip just south of the down-town area.
Development of Las Vegas
One of the first developments on the Las Vegas strip was the Flamingo Hotel. It opened on New Year’s Eve 1946, complete with a casino, it had 100 bedrooms at that time. It was constructed with an art-deco theme and it was famously funded by mob money. This was an important contribution to the local history.
Las Vegas started out with lax laws and it soon became hugely popular. In the 50’s there was no sales tax, no state income tax and you could get married without waiting or obtain a quickie divorce. There were even no speed limits on the roads. Also, gambling was not very well regulated in the early days.
By the mid 1950’s there were 1800 hotel rooms on the Las Vegas Strip with most people visiting for short stays. Accommodation was deliberately kept as cheap as possible to attract gamblers. Las Vegas also attracted some great entertainers like Elvis Presley and Liberace. In 1957, Minskies Follies at the Dunes Resort became the first to host, or boast topless showgirls.
In 1959 the Tropican Hotel bought the American rights to the spectacular Folies Bergere. During 1960, the Stardust Hotel imported the famous Lido de Paris show from Paris. 1959 also saw the opening of the Las Vegas Convention Center which has since grown to be one of the largest venues in the world. The Convention Center was provided to help fill hotel rooms during slack periods. Currently five and a half million convention delegates visit Las Vegas every year.
The Modern Development of Las Vegas
Slot machines arrived at the casinos during the 1960’s which accepted many different coins, upwards from a nickel. The casinos began booming in this new era of the history of Las Vegas and the development of Las Vegas continued at an accelerated pace. Some of the oldest resort hotels are still operating, for example, the Flamingo, the Tropicana.
The next flurry of development came in 1966 when Caesars Palace opened followed by more Casino Resort Hotels through the next few decades. During the 1990’s some of the older hotels were demolished to make was for new developments. The Dunes made way for the Bellagio Casino and the Sands became the Venetian Casino. In 2005, the Desert Sands Hotel was demolished to make way for the Wynn Las Vegas. It was a 50 storey luxury development costing 2.7 billion dollars. Other hotels in Las Vegas go through continuous cycles of refurbishment.
Steve Wynn also built the Mirage, Treasure Island and the Bellagio Casino. They were purchased by MGM. Steve Wynn is something of a legend in Las Vegas. He was responsible for promoting entertainment like “Cirque du Soleil”, and “Mystere” to the strip. In 2006, Steve Wynn went on to develop the Wynn Macau.
The history of Las Vegas is interesting but the history of Macau equally of note. Macau was a former Portuguese Colony in China where gambling was legal. When the lease ran out the Chinese Government did not ban gambling even though it is illegal throughout China. The result was a boom in the construction of Casino Resorts throughout Macau. Now gaming revenues in Las Vegas have been overtaken by Macau.
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