The History of Las Vegas: The City of Casinos

by Tim | Feb 17, 2023

The History of Las Vegas: The City of Casinos

Native Americans lived in the Las Vegas Valley as early as AD 700, over 12,000 years ago, migrating between nearby mountains in the summer months and the valley near Big Springs during winters. We’re not going that far back into history, however. Instead, we’ll be exploring the history of the city of Las Vegas as we know it today.

From tradesmen and missionaries to farmers and mafia, the history of Las Vegas, as you may imagine, is a telling tale. So, how did a city so far off the beaten track become the entertainment capital of the world? Find out the Las Vegas gambling history below and, after this, why don’t you play some exciting online slots in the UK? We got you covered with Las Vegas-themed Slots too!

The early days

Las Vegas was named in 1829 by Rafael Rivera, a member of a Spanish trading party tasked with establishing a trade route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. The party stopped in the area for water while on the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico and realised it was the best point to resupply before going to California. At the time, the valley contained artesian wells surrounded by extensive marshland rich with vegetation. The name is, therefore, Spanish for “the meadows” or “fertile plains.”

Fast forward through a war with Mexico that resulted in the area becoming US territory, a Mormon migration, travellers, traders, and agricultural pursuits, and we arrive in the early 20th century. Railroad developers had decided that Las Vegas would serve as a prime stop along the San Pedro, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles railroad routes. This would also connect the area to major cities on the Pacific coast. When Las Vegas was built, it was little more than a small farming town, but the arrival of the railroad in 1905 brought with it stores, saloons, and boarding houses. The spirit of the Wild West blossomed, and with it, an appetite for entertainment. Cue the town’s first casino. 

Las Vegas developed slowly, at first, with the exception of a sanctioned zone of prostitution and gambling, which was booming. That was until 1910 when the Nevada legislature outlawed gambling. And so, a number of speakeasies and bootleg casinos began operating underground, flourishing covertly until gambling was legalised in 1931. With the construction of the Hoover Dam, thousands more workers came to Las Vegas, and casinos and showgirl venues opened along Fremont Street (the only paved road in the city) in response. The town had become a popular weekend tourist destination, with an influx of people who worked in the Hollywood movie industry leading the way. The first hotel, El Rancho Vegas, opened in 1941. 

Viva Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, skyline over The Strip at dusk.

The success of El Rancho Vegas inspired more hotels to open up along Highway 91, which would later evolve into the Las Vegas Strip. Between 1940 and 1950, the city’s population nearly tripled and more than doubled in the decade following. With the arrival of world-class entertainers such as Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra, tourists flocked to the city. Between 1980 and 1990, the city’s population increased by nearly 100,000 to exceed a quarter of a million and continued to grow rapidly alongside the casino and entertainment economy in the years that followed.

The now metropolitan area was home to one million inhabitants by mid-1990 – a number that would double a decade later. New casinos and hotels were ushered in, and modern Vegas was in full force.

Modern Vegas

Today, over 41 million people visit Las Vegas each year. There are more than 150 casinos and around 150,000 hotel/motel rooms in the Las Vegas valley area. It is also home to more than half of the 20 largest hotels in the world. Entertainment and casinos remain the biggest source of income for the city, and gambling accounts for just over 43% of Las Vegas casinos’ revenue. The balance is generated from rooms, food, and beverages. With millions of lights, Las Vegas is considered the brightest place on Earth and has been rated one of the top 10 locations in the United States for great food!

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For more Las Vegas fun facts and history, check out our blog, where you can keep updated on the latest industry news and offers. If you’re a long way from Las Vegas but still in the mood to spin the reels on the best online slots in the UK or try your strategy at the poker table, all you have to do is register with The Phone Casino! You’ll get access to a huge selection of world-renowned casino games that you can access from your desktop or mobile devices and enjoy wherever you are, whenever you feel in the mood.

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