A Brief History of Las Vegas

When talk of casinos is in the air, most people immediately think about the gambling mecca of Las Vegas. A city of sparkling lights and glittering hotels in the desert, it grew to prominence as the main legalized gambling city in the US during the 21st century. Since then, it has become world-famous, attracting the biggest and best casinos and attractions on the planet.

Early Days of Las Vegas


If you want to see how the strip has evolved, there is no better mirror for its development than in the humble slot machine. An icon of Vegas, it started as a simple mechanical machine. Often placed at the entrance to casinos, the sights and sounds they create are synonymous with the casino floor itself.

As technology on the strip improved, video poker came into being. Soon, the slot game evolved into an online forum, bridging the gap between physical and iGaming markets. For more details, check the slot games online at Paddy Power to see how far they have come. Games now feature multiple reels, progressive bonuses, and unique themes from Irish luck to TV and game shows. The strip has changed and so have the games within it, always in tandem with the evolution of the slot. But it was not always that way.

Las Vegas also is not as old as people may think. The first settlers arrived sometime before 1844, naming the valley Las Vegas, which meant fertile plains. Its purpose was to be a supply post on the long journey to California. A hidden fort was later built there when it was part of Mexico and when a war between the country and the US was over and it became part of the United States. Travelers and hunters used it to take shelter for the next few years and it would become a haven for missionaries, soldiers, and even winemakers proceeding with this.

The City of Las Vegas

The concept of a town began to emerge when water was first pumped into the area around 1905. This made it an important stop for travelers. When the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake railroads arrived, they connected the main rail networks in the country with the Pacific and the town itself.

At this point, Las Vegas was two towns. On one side was the main street, which was owned by William Andrews Clark, proprietor of the railroad. The other side belonged to J.T. McWilliams, who had bought the land from winemakers. It was this side that became the busy city we know today.

The Booming Thirties

The 1930s would be a boom period for the city. While gambling had been outlawed in 1910, it continued in hidden places and speakeasy establishments. This was repealed in the thirties, due to one of the biggest engineering projects in US history. Construction began on the Boulder Dam, later known as the Hoover Dam, in 1931. This construction swelled the city’s population with workers who had money to spend on entertainment. Knowing how much revenue gambling could bring, the city then allowed it to take place.

The town only had one paved road at this point on Fremont Street, where most of the workers were based. This is where the casinos began to pop up. By the time the dam was finished in 1936, low-cost electricity was being produced to illuminate its many signs and lights. This led to Fremont Street acquiring the nickname of Glitter Gulch. Las Vegas was officially open for business.

The Post-War Boom


The war years had been quiet in Vegas, but some major changes had come that would influence the strip forever more. The first resort opened in 1941. Named the El Rancho, it resided just outside the jurisdiction of the city.

The next important opening was the Flamingo Casino. This revolutionized casinos, taking cues from high-class establishments in Hollywood. Las Vegas was no longer the domain of dusty saloon-style casinos, but the luxurious spots we know today. Although the Flamingos founder, Bugsy Siegel, passed away, he had put the wheels in motion and soon new casinos in a similar vein arrived. These luxury spots included the Sands, Riviera, and Fremont.

By 1954, these casinos had begun to attract around 8 million visitors a year to the city. Many of them came not just to gamble, but to see the stars of the day who often performed there. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Liberace became stars of the strip brought concertgoers in droves, bringing in the concept of the Vegas Residency. A massive push for tourism advertising took place, putting other hubs in Texas and Arkansas out of business. Vegas was now the king of gambling.

Modern Vegas


From the thirties onwards, Vegas was experiencing rapid levels of growth. Every ten years, the population was almost doubling in size. This led to a massive increase in residential areas of the city and condominiums, created by global companies like Calida Group Real Estate. Of course, this had the impact of making Las Vegas real estate cost a premium.

By the late eighties, the previous generations that had run Vegas were starting to fade out. Spurred on by low-cost airfare and the internet, Vegas became a modern mecca built on the concept of a mega-resort. The idea was that casinos no longer existed on their own, but instead were large entertainment and hotel complexes that could attract families as well as lone travelers. The first of these was the Mirage, built by the influential Wall Street entrepreneur Steve Wynn. More arrived to copy it, such as Planet Hollywood and the MGM Grand.

Since then, Las Vegas has continued to develop with new attractions and innovative hotel casinos. Most of the establishments have set up hybrid online businesses, to reap the rewards of the burgeoning iGaming industry. Many of the offerings they now provide in-house can now be found online. While the Vegas strip offers the casino experience, online attempts offer a convenience not found before in gambling culture before.

What the city will do next remains to be seen. It continues to grow, and innovative attractions are still being planned, such as moon-themed hotels and casino trains. Make sure you plan in advance for your next visit, because it is the biggest gambling city in the world and always fills up quickly.

Back to top button