‘Sin City’, ‘The City That Never Sleeps’, ‘The Entertainment Capital of the World’. There are several major cities around the world that are in constant competition over these labels, but only one city can claim ownership over all three nicknames simultaneously. That’s right – Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.
As seen on Eleventy Traveler Blog, established in 1905, Las Vegas officially became a city only in 1911. With the help of a lucky chain of events, Las Vegas grew faster than any other city established in 20th century USA. Indeed, luck plays a big roll in the past and present success of the gambling capital of the world. What started out as a small stopover town on the pioneer trails to the West first became popular in the early 1900’s due to the railroad that passed through it. But when railroads spread out far enough to reach other Western towns, Las Vegas looked like it may have passed its peak. Even the legalization of gambling on March 19, 1931 couldn’t keep many residents from abandoning the town. But the completion of the nearby Hoover Dam in 1936 gave the city just the boost it needed. The substantial growth in tourism, along with legalized gambling, paved the way for the construction of massive casino-hotel resorts that would forever change the face of the city.
The Early Boom
At first it was Downtown Las Vegas that got all the tourist and gambling action. The Downtown casino area flourished, and many hotels opened their doors to eager gamblers from all over the country. Las Vegas was also known during these days for its seductive and sinful nature, getting the gamblers to spend the last of their winnings on alcohol and prostitution, seeing as these activities have been tolerated in the state of Nevada since the middle of the 19th century.
The Strip – Take One
A slight shift in the local geography started taking place in 1946, when the Flamingo Hotel opened on what would later be known as ‘The Strip’. Though hotels could be found on The Strip as early as 1931, it wasn’t until renowned American mobster Bugsy Siegel established The Flamingo that The Strip became a leading gambling destination. Many agree that Siegel was one of the first to see the true potential of The Strip, but even a ‘visionary’ like him couldn’t imagine what would become of the area more than 40 years later.
During the 1970’s, Las Vegas was experiencing a decline in tourism, mainly due to the legislation that was passed by the state of New Jersey, making gambling legal in parts of that state. Atlantic City became a leading gambling resort, attracting many East Coast tourists. Las Vegas had to bring out the big guns if it wanted to gain a new edge over the competition from the East. And that’s exactly what Vegas did.
The Rise of the Megaresort
In 1989, The Mirage opened on The Strip. This was the first gambling ‘Megaresort’ in the world, and its opening marked the beginning of a new era in Las Vegas. At the time it was built, The Mirage was the most expensive hotel/casino in history. It is considered by many to be the ‘father’ of today’s Las Vegas. As of today, The Strip is home to no less than 18 of the 25 largest hotels in the world, all of which are heavily themed with spectacular, breathtaking façades. Keeping in mind that this is an area less than 7 kilometers long, you start to get an idea of the intensity and magnitude of the phenomena simply known as ‘The Strip’. The area also became a legitimate family destination, supporting many attractions other than gambling, such as themed parks, spectacular shows, upbeat clubs and a respected music scene.
In 2006, the Las Vegas Strip lost its longtime status as the world’s highest-grossing gambling center. It fell to second place behind the fast-developing Macau, which mainly attracts gamblers from mainland China.