The history of the American city of Las Vegas

Nobody will be surprised that Las Vegas has a glorious history. But how has this piece of land changed from arid desert to a world-famous city full of entertainment and neon lighting? You read it in Online Casino Grounds' first part about the history of Las Vegas! Read more quickly ...

Every year millions of people visit the American city of Las Vegas where they gamble, go out or experience other entertainment. But how has Las Vegas grown into such a gigantic city, where literally anything is possible? What is the history and who had a major influence on the development of the city? You can read it in the article below!

Until 1850 – Indian people

Until 1850, Las Vegas was inhabited by an Indian tribe called Paiutes. The area was a popular stopover for traders and explorers on their way to California. Not only were there natural springs in the area, you also had green valleys there at the time. Hence the name Las Vegas; the meadows, in Spanish.

1850 – 1904 – Discoverers

From 1850, thanks to the Mormons, it got the first characteristics of a city. The then president, Brighman Young, was interested in this area between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. He sent missionaries (clergymen) to colonize the area and convert the Indians. For example, they built a fort (Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort) that you can still see today.

After a while the Mormons left for Utah. Colonist Octavius ​​Decatur Glass was assigned as the owner of the fort. In the years that followed, he further expanded his fort and focused on agriculture. In this way he was able to provide accommodation and food for passing travelers and he provided miners away from foodstuffs.

Later the fort came into the hands of Archibald Stewart. After his death, he sold it to William Clark, Montana's senator. He also took on the task of further developing the area. He took this seriously, because there was an extensive train network: from Utah to California. A very important development for the accessibility of the area.

1905 – Birth of the city of Las Vegas

In 1905 was downtown Las Vegas divided into 1,200 plots and sold to both settlers and investors. 1905 is therefore seen as the year of birth of the city. Houses, schools, hotels and a hospital were quickly set up.

Developing the train network was a smart move because people from all kinds of areas came to the city. As a final destination or a short stopover.

1931 – Hoover Dam

1931 was the year that the well-known Hoover Dam was built: a 221-meter high concrete arch / dam in the Colorado River. The dam had to prevent flooding and protect the surrounding land and farms. The Hoover Dam was named after Herbert Hoover: the 31e President of the US and then Minister of Economic Affairs.

Another controversial event in 1931: gambling was legalized in the state of Nevada. Gambling was already very popular and was already frequent in local bars and pubs. It was also made easier for people to get a divorce.

1941 – Vegas ’very first casino

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1941 was the year of Las Vegas’s very first casino: the El Rancho Vegas casino (built on the so-called Strip). In addition to the casino, El Rancho also had 63 hotel rooms. Ideal for gamblers who wanted to stay longer. The casino burned down 20 years later. The success of El Rancho resulted in a lot of publicity, as a result of which more and more entrepreneurs, investors and also the mafia moved to the city. Subsequently, the casinos and hotels sprouted like mushrooms. For example, Hotel Las Frontier and Hotel Flamingo were opened in 1942. Hotel Flamingo is still the oldest opened hotel in Vegas to this day.

World War II

The Second World War played a major role in the history of Las Vegas. An air force base was established at which American soldiers stationed. This ensured an even better logistical connection and the income of the city increased steadily.

'50s and' 60s – The Mafia

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The 1950s were dominated by the infamous Mafia at Las Vegas. The gangsters took over the entire city and they build one hotel or casino after the other. Gambling was of course the ideal way to launder black and criminal money. Despite that, in 1954 no fewer than 8 million visitors came to the city. And not just any visitors: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and many others appeared on the well-known Strip.

The Mafia weakened in the late 60s by police actions and billionaire Howard Hughes (in the photo above). During his visit, this eccentric stayed in a luxury suite at the Desert Inn Hotel & Casino. He bought this hotel together with Castaways, Landmark, New Frontier, Silver Slipper and Sands. He invested millions to modernize the hotels. He managed to give the city a big boost and upgrade. So Howard Hughes played a major role in transforming Las Vegas from "Sin City" to "Entertainment Capital of the World."

Fun fact: Hughes peculiar personality including bizarre life story can be seen in the Oscar-winning biographical film: the Aviator (2004). Leonardo diCaprio plays the lead actor Howard Hughes. A must for the Las Vegas fan!

1968 – 1980 – Kirk Kerkorian’s influence in the hotel industry

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Hotel Flamingo was bought in 1968 by an American investor: Kirk Kerkorian. He hired the Sahara hotel manager so that he could train the staff for the yet to be built International Hotel which would open its doors in 1969. And it didn't just become a hotel: a hotel with no less than 1,512 hotel rooms. Very unusual for that time. The International hotel was the start of the mega hotels and casinos on the Strip.

Kirk Kerkorian did not sit still. Four years later he opened the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino: at that time one of the largest hotels in the world. Today, the hotel is owned by Caesars Entertainment Cooperation. In 1980 a big band broke out. 87 people died and it took eight months for the hotel to open again.

1980 – 1990

In 1989, a period began when small hotels (such as The Dunes, Sands Hotel, Stardust and the Sahara) were demolished and rebuilt into mega-resorts. It was no longer just about casinos, but also entertainment and other forms of entertainment. That's how an amusement park was created: the MGM Grand, which soon had to close due to lack of enthusiasm. Aventuredome, an indoor amusement park, and the Fashion Show Mall were more successful.

Part II of the history of Las Vegas

In Part II of Online Casino Ground’s article about the history of Las Vegas: extravagant hotels such as the Bellagio and The Venetian, and developments from the 1990s to the present. Where gambling was legalized in Las Vegas in 1931, online gambling is still not in the Netherlands. Also a very interesting "long-read" and how does Nevada differ from the Netherlands in terms of decisiveness.

Part III: practical tips for your visit to Vegas

Being broke on the second or third day of your vacation … you absolutely must avoid that in Vegas. In part 3 of this series you will find practical budget tips and you will learn how to optimally benefit from the various reward programs. You can also read where you can find the highest payout percentages, and you won't find them on the Strip. Read on soon!

Part IV: downtown Las Vegas

This part of Vegas is often skipped, a missed opportunity. The largest and most famous hotels are of course on "The Strip", yet downtown Las Vegas has plenty to offer you. In addition to a great atmosphere, you will also find cheaper casinos with a nice vintage look. The beautiful neon commercials contribute even more to this nostalgic, cozy atmosphere. Downtown is definitely worth a visit, especially in the evening!

Las Vegas – Part V

In part V you discover what Las Vegas has to offer outside of gambling. Of course you can't get home with the story that you just skipped the Grand Canyon, because it went so well on the blackjack table. Do you prefer to combine sightseeing with gambling when you're in the Vegas area? Then the smaller, nearby town of Primm is worth a visit. In addition to casinos, you will also find all kinds of outlet stores where you can score the nicest items of clothing and accessories for a good price.

Las Vegas – Part VI

In part VI you can read everything about the hotels in Las Vegas, but we are not familiar with the names that you can read about everywhere. This article is about the true classics, legendary hotels from the past that you unfortunately can no longer visit. So read about it, just here on Online Casino Ground!

Flamingo Casino

You have probably heard of Flamingo Casino and the connection with organized crime. Read more about the myths surrounding this casino and what role gangster Ben "bugsy" Siegel played.

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