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History of Las Vegas casino industry

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Vegas, as a city is famous for many things. One of its main attractions is the glamorous lifestyle and high-end casinos. The highest payout casino in the world are in this city. The city hasnot always been about casinos and gaming. For the casino industry to get where it is today, it has gone through a lot of challenges. Here, is the history of Las Vegas and its casinos.

Early History

Prehistoric Nevada was once a marsh that had vegetation and water. The land dried out when the rivers stopped flowing. The valley became dry and only the hardiest plants and animals were able to survive.


You cannot delve into studying the origins of Las Vegas casinos without taking a look at how Las Vegas started off. Las Vegas is a Spanish name meaning “The Meadow” and it got the name from Mexican traders who found the area to be a good resting place. At this time, Las Vegas was within Mexican territory. It changed ownership after the Mexican-American war of the 1800s.

Birth, Growth, and Crisis

At the beginning of the 1900s, Las Vegas was selling water to towns and settlements that did not have a reliable source of water. By then it was a small town that was popular with gold miners and prospectors. The availability of reliable watersources helped the town to grow. Further growth of the town came with the railroad. As revenue was increasing, further explosion of the town was imminent. Las Vegas became a city on May 5, 1905. Gambling was a common pastime activity for gold miners and prospectors even though it was illegal to play the game of chance during that time. Casinos were not there at the time so they were gambling in their homes or in saloons. 

The city had a diverse economy and the business community was stable and prospering. Las Vegas was thriving until 1917. However, war comes with its effects, and towns receive the worst of such. The situation became worse when the nationwide strike of 1922 hit the area hard. 

War years and postwar

During the First World War, Las Vegas was home to a flexible gunnery school which would later become Nellis Air Force Base. Thomas Hull had the honor of opening the first resort, El Rancho Vegas, in the area that would become known as the Las Vegas Strip. And other hotels and resorts saw an opportunity as well. By now organized crime was playing a huge role in the city and the opening of The Flamingo in 1946 showed this. After the war, banks started lending money to casinos and this spurred the growth of gambling. By 1954, around 8 million people were visiting casinos and pumping around $200 million into casinos. 

The beginning of modern Las Vegas

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Howard Hughes moved to Las Vegas in 1966. This famous aviator stayed at the Desert Inn which he ended up buying. He then went on to spend $300 million to grow his business empire through the purchase of well-known hotels, media outlets, and real estate. Hughes changed the image of the city into a polished multicultural city. Earlier on, the Strip was not under the control of the city and so the city was not getting tax revenue from the area. The city tried to push to annex The Strip but The Syndicate outsmarted them and organized the properties in the area into an unincorporated township called Paradise. 

Segregation was a common thing in Las Vegas. Most businesses were white-owned and they barred African Americans from entering them. Organized crime-owned businesses tried to desegregate Las Vegas because they saw an opportunity to increase their market share but their efforts were not successful. This changed though in 1960 when political action taken by NAACP led to the desegregation of all the casinos. 

Explosive growth

Las Vegas experienced explosive growth rates from the 1930s up until the recession hit in the late 2000s. As the world ushered in the 21st century, Vegas become the biggest city of the 1900s. Its growth had a ripple effect on the construction industry as well which grew to greater heights. The increase in demand forcommercial buildings and residential houses was a blessing in disguise. The MGM Grand, which is one of the most popular Las Vegas casinos was born during this boom time. 

Megaresort area

By the late 1980s, the Las Vegas of the mid-20th century came to an end, and the rise of the megaresort era started. The city started to become more business-oriented, big companies started flooding into the city and started to own hotels, nightclubs, and Vegas casinos. The construction of The Mirage in 1989 kicked off this era.

Since 2007: downturn and recovery

Las Vegas suffered a downturn during the recession of the late 2000s and the mortgage crisis of 2007-2010. Construction projects ground to a halt or proceeded with financial trouble. The global financial conditions also had a bad effect on tourism and gaming and this saw a decline in revenues. Despite all this,new hotels and resorts came up. Nevertheless, the economy of Las Vegas has been recovering and conditions are improving in both the tourism and housing sectors. Prices are rising and things are looking bright. 

Las Vegas has a long rich history. It has experienced a lot of change from the early days when it was a frontier town to the modern city it is today. So the next time you visit an instant withdrawal Las Vegas casino, take time to also learn the city’s history.


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