History of Las Vegas

Long before a single fast-handed dealer yelled "blackjack" and pushed a stack of chips to a lucky card player, there was Las Vegas. Las Vegas pre-dates the bright lights, the shows, the all-night parties and the gorgeous resorts. The original residents of the area that now includes Las Vegas were, of course, Native Americans. As settlers and traders pushed west, a small trading caravan gave the spot the name "Las Vegas" ("the meadows"). Mormon settlers tried to convert Native Americans. Buoyed by cheap government land sales, families tried to scrape out a living farming the Nevada land. By the early 20th century, Las Vegas was an actual town, albeit one with under 1,000 citizens.

When Nevada loosened its divorce laws, the precursors of today's resorts started springing up in the desert. If you could maintain Nevada's residency
for six weeks, you could get a no-hassle divorce. Dude ranches supplied a diverting place to spend those six weeks and Las Vegas was developing a reputation as the place to end your marriage by the early 1930s.

Water is a problem in the desert. So is power. The best way to solve those problem? A dam. Enter the biggest dam project anyone had ever seen-Hoover dam. The massive engineering feat required personnel and Las Vegas became their home away from home. Illegal gambling flourished in the dam camps and in the little town. In 1931, the authorities decided it made more sense to bring the gaming out into the open. With the dam project underway and a population that had grown to nearly 25,000 people, Las Vegas started earning its reputation as a gambling Mecca.

The dam was done by the late 30s. The casinos were growing and the bright lights of "Glitter Gulch", powered by the electricity generated by the dam, were shining. The second World War brought a significant army training presence to Las Vegas
, feeding the growing gaming industry.

Many people will tell you that the Las Vegas we know today started when two gangsters, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo Hotel in 1946. Earlier casinos were small, simple affairs. The Flamingo, on the other hand, featured a world-class restaurant, venues for performances, luxury hotel space and a massive (by the time's standards) casino floor. It became a model for future projects and Las Vegas continued to boom.

Today, Las Vegas is an endless series of amazing casino properties connected by flashing bulbs and neon tubes. It's the home of many top performances, the site of magnificent resorts, and the only place in America where you can legally book a sports bet. It's casinos and adult cabarets. It's family fun and activities for the kids. It's a playground for everyone.

Las Vegas is one of the most famed cities in the world. It has a reputation and a personality all of its own. The back story is fascinating-who would've thought that a change in divorce laws, the construction of a hydroelectric dam, and the entrepreneurial instinct of mobsters would combine to produce something on the scale of Las Vegas?