These days, it’s impossible to think of Las Vegas without the image of the lights on the strip and glamorous casinos coming to mind. But the Vegas we know of 2020 wasn’t always that way; and it took a long, long time to get its reputation for being the world’s casino capital. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and get to the root of how Las Vegas became the city that never sleeps.
A historical journey
It’s hard to believe these days, but the Las Vegas region was once an abundant marshland stock full of rich vegetation. That is, until the marsh receded, and the waters disappeared, transforming the landscape into a desert, with the trapped water underground sprouting life and forming an oasis.
It was during the 19th century that the explorer Antonio Armijo from Mexico foraged the way from New Mexico to California on the first commercial caravan. It was a member of the group, Rafael Rivera who rode west to find water and venture through the desert, setting his eyes upon Las Vegas Springs. Las Vegas was therefore named ‘the meadows’ after the grasses found growing there.
Years went on and both Mormon and Mexican settlers began to filter through. In 1890 it was decided by railroad developers that Las Vegas would serve as a spot along the San Pedro, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles railroad route as well as connecting to major cities along the Pacific Coast. From there on, Vegas boomed with stores, boarding houses and saloons popping up around the area. This was the beginning of the Las Vegas as we know it — with railroad workers and ranchers enjoying the gambling and drinking through illegal speakeasies and bootleg casinos operating despite the ban on gambling in Nevada in 1910.
In 1931 gambling once again became legal in the state, with new casinos and showgirl venues opening up along Fremont Street to entertain the thousands of workers who flocked the city during the construction of the Hoover Dam. The first hotel, El Rancho Vegas, opened up in 1941 along Highway 91. Its success inspired others to open up their own hotels along the highway which would one day become the strip. Tourists began to flock to the city over the next few decades to enjoy the casino scene and see incredible artists like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra perform.
The birth of the mega resort
It was in 1966 the businessman Howard Hughes purchased the Desert Inn hotel; this was followed by over a dozen more hotel purchases, pushing out the mobster-owned hotels that had previously dominated Las Vegas. The concept of the mega hotel came about in 1989 when Steve Wynn opened the Mirage as the first hotel resort in the city. By 1994, Las Vegas was the home of more than 86,000 hotel and motel rooms with 13 of the 20 largest mega resort hotels in the world. It was during this era that the Strip became populated with more hotels and casinos, with developments inspired by the iconic cities and countries of the globe including Egypt, Paris, New York and Rome.
Las Vegas in the 21st century
The Las Vegas of today is well and truly established as a home for entertainment and casinos — which remain the biggest source of income for the city. However, there’s no doubt that Vegas faces more competition than ever before from the virtual world, with more people than ever before opting to play at an online casino, rather than play in the old fashioned way, but Vegas will always have the advantage. For many, it’s a once in a lifetime trip that an online casino can’t replicate, but do the online equivalents help to increase interest in Vegas?
The bright lights of Vegas is attracting billions of dollars in investment as many try and get a slice of the revenue that the sector has to offer. During 2019 over 42.52 million people came to visit Las Vegas from all around the world. Domestically, it was shown to be the second most popular destination for U.S. traveller’s dream spots after New York.
These days, Las Vegas continues to thrive and be a source of entertainment for millions of visitors from around the world looking to experience what the city has to offer. With new generations becoming interested in casino games — and some incredible musical residencies continuing to be announced — Las Vegas surely will continue to be one best places to go for a unforgettable dream destination for many.
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