The history of Las Vegas


Las Vegas roulette

Read about the extraordinary rise of Las Vegas.

Las Vegas was just a place name, a few hectares of natural meadows fed by springs gushing out of the desert. A young Mexican first discovered them in 1829. It was a good step, shortening the traditional route between New Mexico and California. In Spanish, Las Vegas means "The Prairie".

When they arrived in Utah, the Mormons were trying to create a state that they could govern as they pleased, with a Constitution written by themselves. They officially claimed a territory they called "Deseret", where the prairies are a stage on the trying road between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

Brigham Young sends two groups of men: the first one must establish a village, and the second one operate a lead mine nearby. This is already more people than the earth can feed: less than two years later, all leave the area. Later, waves of miners will extract the silver that lies within the lead: one of them is more interested in starting a ranch. For 40 years, farming is the only activity in the region.

In March 1931, a Nevada law legalized the organization of gambling games. But habits were slow to die: in Las Vegas, the poker games continued to be played in the back room bars and brothels, as when the game was illegal, and the first popular casinos develop in Elko and in Reno.

In 1941, a Californian chain of motels founded a new hotel at the southern entrance of Vegas on Highway 91, the road to Los Angeles. El Rancho Motel, outside the city limits, displays the style of a Mexican hacienda. You could do horseback riding, but its main attraction was its pool visible from the road, sparkling in the eyes of car passengers burning without air conditioning. People stopped.

El Rancho also had a casino room. The gambling profits were minimal in comparison to other sources of income in the hotel, but this room at El Rancho was the first casino on the Vegas Strip. Soon a clientele of great actors became regulars: Clark Gable, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman. In 1960, the hotel burned down; it was not rebuilt and ten years later Howard Hughes bought the land for $10 million from an original price paid of $100 in 1938.

Ben Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo in 1946. This is the first major luxurious hotel-casino. Frank Costello and Lucky Luciano had financed the operation. They suspected for a long time that Siegel tapped into the cash register and they warned him. The beginning was disastrous and two weeks after the opening Siegel is murdered. The Flamingo fell in the hands of a gambling boss from Phoenix and it took off from there. There was only 105 rooms by then.

The strip continues to grow with the advent of slots and video poker machines: Bonanza 1967 Circus-Circus in 1972; Riata Holiday Casino in 1973; Marina 1975 Barbary Coast, Vegas World and Imperial Palace in 1979; O'Shea's in 1989, Excalibur 1990 Casino Royale in 1992, Luxor and Treasure Island in 1993, New York-New York in 1997. In 1993, the Dunes were dynamited. The Bellagio replacing it with more than 3,000 rooms was completed in 1998. Paris Las Vegas is finished in 1999.

The Strip stretches five kilometers by then. The Vegas Strip is known the world over by now, and there is even of variation of Blackjack named after it, the Vegas Strip Blackjack.

Night or day, when arriving from the north via U.S. 95 or from the east via Interstate 15, the extent of the city is visible. From 1800 hotel rooms in 1953, Las Vegas grew to over 124,000 in May 2001. A third of the year, they are fully occupied. The population increases with the activity; from one million three hundred thousand inhabitants in 2001, it is expected to reach two million soon.

So if you have not yet visited the Sin City, it is really worth having a look. You do not have to have a gamblig addiction to visit the Sin City, on the contrary it is recommended to play with moderation. Try to have self control, decide your maximum budget before you enter the casino. If you do not like casino games, just watch the Cirque du Soleil's shows.

Anyway small or big, let's enjoy gambling with reason.