A brief history of casino in Las Vegas

By Mitch Rice

You’ve seen it in the movies, and you’ve certainly heard about its reputation, but Las Vegas is commonly known for its vivid, elaborate and fun casinos! So many phrases can be associated with this fantastical place, like: ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ and ‘The city that never sleeps’, to name but a few.

If you’re an avid player of online casino in the UK, then you may well aspire to the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas, famous – or perhaps infamous – for its legendary casinos. But, it’s a bit tricky at the moment to jet-set off to this vibrant city, so let us take you on a trip. We will guide you through the history of the incredible place and holy grail in the world of casino, that is Las Vegas.

1800s to 1900s – Gambling is brought to the area

Did you know that Las Vegas is Spanish for ‘The Meadows’, as it was originally a stopping point for Mexican traders? They found it an excellent spot to rest, as they made their way to Los Angeles (The Angels). At this point in history, the area was still Mexican territory, and becoming land of the United States as a result of the Mexican-American War of the mid-1800s.

For the late 1800s and early 1900s, gambling and the beginnings of casino games, were popular past-times for prospectors, explorers and fortune seekers that passed through the area – thanks to the California gold rush. However, there was nationwide laws that banned gambling of any kind, in a bid to eradicate these gambling practices.

The mid 1900s – Las Vegas is born

Las Vegas began initially as a small town, established in 1905 as a stopover for trains passing to and from Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. During this early stage in its history, gambling was still illegal, but this didn’t stop everyone. Many people rebelled and played in backrooms or underground casinos from Las Vegas, all the way to Reno, as the laws began to loosen over the coming years.

1931 was a year to remember for Las Vegas, as gambling was finally decriminalized and made legal by the Nevada government. This brought in a huge amount of money to the city, causing a boost to its economy and enabled it to prosper further.

Construction also began on the Hoover Dam in this era, which bought plenty of workers to the area. And what was the perfect way to relax after a hard day of labouring? A trip to the casino of course – so there was an influx in demand for gaming establishments.

As the 20th century continued, businessmen were drawn to Las Vegas, and in 1914 the first hotel and casino was built in the city. The license was granted to Thomas Hull, and the hotel-resort was named El Rancho Vegas – and the Las Vegas strip had begun.

Soon, many combined hotels and casino were built, and probably most famously, in 1941, The Flamingo was established by New York City gangster, Bugsy Siegel. He set the bar for the elaborate casinos that were then set to dominate the area. Although, he was shot down the following year, his legacy lived on, with this style of casino being built all over the city.

The late 1900s to now – The Vegas we know and love

Las Vegas continued to grow, in terms of the number of casino resorts as well as population. From the ‘70s onwards, there was an upward trend in huge mega-resorts. The sheer size of the establishments and the amount of entertainment now on offer, meant that the city soon became a tourist attraction for family vacations, not just for the lovers of the casino.

Shows in Las Vegas venues from the likes of The Rat Pack meant that the reputation of Las Vegas only improved, and more and more glamour was added to the city.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, there was another rise in big resorts, of which can be still be found in Vegas today, like the MGM Grand, the Bellagio, and Treasure Island.

With resorts decorated with all kinds of themes and inspirations, as well as its surrounding natural beauty and renewable energy being introduced, a visit to Las Vegas is surely a once in a lifetime and must-have experience.