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Now that we’ve discussed the general history of Las Vegas in our previous post, we’re delving deeper into its rich gambling history! Las Vegas is known for its bright lights and casinos, and the city’s history stretches back far before gambling was legalized in 1931. This post will explore the rich history of gambling in Las Vegas and how it has evolved over the years. Whether you’re a tourist visiting Sin City for the first time or a long-time resident, you’ll appreciate the fascinating history of gambling in Las Vegas!


The Interesting and Rich History of Gambling in Sin City

Legalized Gambling in Las Vegas

With the rise of organized crime in the early 1900s, gambling and saloons became widespread in Las Vegas, and despite a ban on gambling in 1910, illegal casinos and bars continued to thrive.

Mobsters found Las Vegas to be an appealing destination because of its proximity to Los Angeles. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, a gangster who grew up just outside of Los Angeles, saw it as an opportunity to develop his business in the city. By 1946, Siegel had completed The Flamingo Hotel & Casino, but his business career was cut short when he was assassinated by rival criminals.

Gambling remained illegal until the Hoover Dam was built in 1931. Thousands of construction workers traveled to Las Vegas, and mobsters and businessmen alike were anxious to win large sums of money at the time. In a short period of time, other casinos and entertainment facilities sprouted up around Fremont Street, the city’s only paved thoroughfare. Despite the consequences of WWII on business, the first Las Vegas hotel, El Rancho Vegas, opened on Highway 91 in 1941. This was the start of what became known as the Las Vegas Strip.

Benjamin Bugsy Siegel


History of Gambling in Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Strip

By 1940, gaming enterprises were taking hold across the state. The growing Las Vegas Strip was one of the most bustling places. Most people associate the first Las Vegas Strip resort with the infamous Benjamin Siegel, who created the Fabulous Flamingo, although Thomas Hull actually opened El Rancho Las Vegas earlier in 1941.

The Flamingo was created by R.W. “Billy” Wilkerson, a prominent Los Angeles nightclub entrepreneur and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson was compelled to sell due to rumored debts, and it was Siegel who launched the Flamingo on December 26, 1946 and inherited the title of “inventor” of Las Vegas. Despite the fact that it was not the first resort on the Las Vegas Strip, there is little doubt that it helped set the standard for what a Nevada hotel and casino could be.

Following that, the construction of casinos such as the Golden Nugget, Harrah’s Club and Nevada Club, Wagon Wheel Casino, and Tahoe-Biltmore Hotel & Casino accelerates. The Mapes opened in Reno in 1947, while The Thunderbird opened on the Las Vegas Strip in 1948.

El Rancho Las Vegas


The Gaming Control Act of Las Vegas

The construction of hotels and casinos in Las Vegas blossomed over the entire state in 1950, when there were over 13 big casinos. Nonetheless, the rapid expansion of the gambling sector necessitated the establishment of a gaming jurisdiction in Las Vegas. By 1952, commercial gambling had surpassed mining and agriculture as the most lucrative industry in Las Vegas.

The Nevada State Legislature established the Gaming Control Board in 1955 in response to the growing threat of federal gambling prohibition and negative public reaction as Las Vegas’s economy became increasingly dependent on gaming as an economic engine. The major objective was to supervise the licensing and operation of all casinos while eradicating the undesirable elements that posed a threat to the industry’s present and future integrity.

Moreover, gambling regulators produced the now-famous Black Book. Nevada’s efforts to protect the gaming industry resulted in the Black Book, a list of dishonest casino patrons.Nevada’s gaming regulatory system has played a crucial role in the state’s development and has become the model for gaming regulatory agencies on a national and international scale.

gambling regulators Black Book

Credit: Photo By Mob Museum

History of Gambling in Las Vegas: Howard Hughes 

By 1960, the state’s yearly gross gaming revenue had surpassed $200 million and its population had surpassed 280 thousand. Casino operators proceeded to establish and expand their ventures across the state as gaming authorities began to enforce the Black Book.

Howard Hughes‘s entrance was one of the most significant events in Nevada’s gambling history. Hughes was a renowned pilot, filmmaker, and millionaire entrepreneur. When he came to Las Vegas, Howard Hughes nearly purchased all of the undeveloped lands in Las Vegas Valley as well as a number of casinos and businesses. The United States Department of Justice initiated a monopolistic lawsuit against him in 1968 when he attempted to purchase the Stardust. The reason there was a lawsuit was that Hughes already controlled one-third of the earnings from all the casinos he had acquired on the Las Vegas Strip and had become Nevada’s largest employer. Hughes was embraced by Nevada’s political leadership because his wealth, notoriety, and visibility lent credibility to the gambling sector.

Howard Hughes


Hotel-Casino Developments throughout Las Vegas

Gaming tax revenue financed nearly half of Las Vegas’ budget by 1975. As a result of the rapid expansion of hotel-casino construction throughout the country in 1970, tourism became a significant sector. Many establishments, including the MGM Grand, Imperial Palace, and Eldorado, opened their doors. In 1972, the New York Stock Exchange listed Harrah’s Entertainment as the first gaming corporation.The Nevada State Legislature established specified criteria for inclusion in the Black Book and reduced the tax on sports betting, facilitating the spread of legal Nevada-based sports books.

By the conclusion of the decade, Nevada had become the nation’s fastest-growing state and its gaming earnings had surged by 150 percent.

MGM Grand


History of Gambling in Las Vegas: The Mega Resorts

Las Vegas, the state with the highest rate of growth in the 1980s, constructed a $750 million “Mega Resort” and ushered in a new era of gambling in Las Vegas. The Mirage, which drew attention from all over the world, was regarded as the most opulent property in Las Vegas. 

The hotel’s entrance on the Strip was dominated by an artificial volcano with waterfalls as its outside feature. The casino and hotel created the image of a South Pacific paradise with carefully placed inside plants, a white tiger habitat, and a 20,000-gallon aquarium. The Mirage focused on luxury resorts, while other hotels focused on casinos. The opening of The Mirage spurred one of the largest regional development and population booms in the history of the United States.

The Mirage Hotel and Casino


The Growth and Las Vegas Today

Following the opening of The Mirage in 1989, Las Vegas had a decade-long development and population boom not seen in the United States since the Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s. Now Las Vegas is the most opulent city in the world and the gaming hub of the globe. Today, gambling and entertainment continue to be the main attractions of Las Vegas. In addition, it is a retail wonderland, a wonderful golfing destination, and a haven for gourmet dining. In conclusion, this dazzling city in the middle of the desert is an extraordinary location unlike any other.

Las Vegas New Year


Gambling in Las Vegas has a long and interesting history. It all began with legalized gambling in 1931, and the city has been growing ever since. Today, you can find mega-resorts on the Strip that are home to some of the best casinos in the world. If you’re moving to Las Vegas or just visiting for a while, be sure to upgrade your home’s locks with USA Lock & Key. We provide high-quality locksmith services at affordable prices.

Moving to Las Vegas? Upgrade your home’s locks with USA Lock & Key!

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