How Las Vegas Became the Gambling City Number One

When talking about Las Vegas, you usually divide its history into old and new Las Vegas. The old Las Vegas was largely controlled by the mafia, while the new Las Vegas is ruled by legitimate companies. The true story of Las Vegas is a fascinating story about how a place that has emerged out of nowhere becomes a unique city where mafia and entrepreneurs over the years have been slaughtered over the ruling over a giant flow of money.

The early Las Vegas: Bugsy Siegel and the Mafia

The very first chapter about Las Vegas as a playground is written in 1931 when gambling was legalized in Nevada. Certainly, there were already illegal clubs where gambling was run, but without legalization there had been small activities carried out in the hidden. Part of the first chapter in the history of people that was searching for Las Vegas for fun was the workers involved in a large pond building near the city.

The story told in the Hollywood movie Bugsy (1991) is that Las Vegas, as we know it today, came after the gangster Ben “Bugsy” Siegel had a vision of a sparkling city in the rugged Nevada. Among other things, Thomas Hull, hotel owner in Los Angeles, had already begun to build his El Rancho, which opened in 1941. At El Rancho there were casinos, restaurants, small shops and a pool.

Most of the ingredients of what characterizes a hotel casino in Las Vegas already existed. Bugsy realized the potential of expansion and borrowed the money from the mafia and bought a semi-finished hotel, renamed it to Flamingo and made it a very luxurious hotel … with an associated casino of course.

However, the costs went off and several billions have to be borrowed from the mafia. When not Flamingo became an immediate success and rumors alleged that Bugsy seized a portion of the money himself, he would soon be murdered by his lenders who became increasingly impatient. After Bugsy Siegel’s death, Gus Greenbaum was placed by the maffia on the Flamingo leaderboard and the organized crime control over Las Vegas was strengthened. The mafias strong control over Las Vegas would be several decades.

The Rat Pack

Bugsy predicted that Las Vegas would attract Hollywood celebrities, both to perform and to frequent the hotels as guests. He was right. Some of the most famous were the so-called Rat Pack which consisted of renowned entertainers where names like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. are most familiar to us today.

In the 1950s, so-called showgirls performed on stage for the first time. Female dancers who made a dance number before and after another main number. The women were dressed in elegant gear and in some numbers,  they also took off the top to dance topless. Although this has been a movie in Hollywood and, among other things, the Showgirls from 1995 where Elizabeth Berkeley plays a dancer seeking success in the sparkling city.

The Las Vegas Strip is called the nearly seven mile long street where most of the major hotels are located. Some of these hotels are not only the largest in Las Vegas but have over the years been among the largest in the world, with some housing several thousand rooms. The street is a glittering monument to the western world’s ability to reconcile money with entertainment.

Legitimate Companies entering Vegas

Las Vegas was long controlled by the Mafia, but legitimate companies took over in the 1960s and 1970s after stricter license requirements were introduced. Las Vegas began to become more a destination for families and sumptuous hotels with kitschy dislocations became tourist objects.

A place that attracted families and ordinary workers was Circus Circus whose owner went against the power when it did not choose to prioritize high rollers. They would expand their business with several additional hotels. The companies were also extremely analytical and learned to expose Las Vegas to full potential and the money flowed in was getting bigger.

Construction boom

Perhaps the 1990s meant the real culmination. As a symbol of the beginning of the construction boom on the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s, Mirage is the best example. Mirage opened in 1989 and was the biggest in size and luxury. During the 1990s, Las Vegas passed Disney World as the place your most tourists traveled, and Las Vegas would pass Hollywood in terms of consumption of entertainment. During this decade, the city’s population also doubled.

After Mirage, Excalibur built an even bigger new casino. Another great hotel was the MGM Grand which, when it opened in 1993, became the world’s largest hotel – the amount that was needed to build it was $ 800 million Perhaps the most spectacular project anyway was Luxor, built in the form of a pyramid, the price tag this time was $ 400. The theme of the hotel was, of course, ancient Egypt in Pharaoh’s time. It was possible to get around on a river boat inside the hotel around what had been built to mimic the Nile.

In the late 1990’s, two further hotel casinos were built in Las Vegas, Bellagio and Mandalay Bay, both rising high above the ground, which further increased the level of cost and luxury. Read more about Vegas and online casino gambling here on the website.