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Vegas History
Posted July 25, 2019

How Las Vegas became Sin City

How did Las Vegas become known as Sin City? It’s hard to imagine that Las Vegas, one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world and the 28th-most populated city in the US, was an unoccupied piece of land featuring wild grasses and desert spring waters just 120 years ago.

Las Vegas history

It got its name in 1829 and was considered nothing more but a convenient stop for travelers to resupply water on their way to California. This was a time when Las Vegas was still a part of Mexico. After the Americans won over the territory in the middle of the 19th century, it took almost half a century for what is now known as Las Vegas to be established as a proper city. Founded in 1905, Vegas quickly grew thanks to its position on the intersection of two important railways, the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad and the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad.

Las Vegas Train

The city now notorious for its luxurious casinos, outlawed gambling in 1910, when an anti-gambling law became effective in the state of Nevada. Although Vegas experienced its first economic crisis in the 1920s, the construction of the Hoover Dam brought even more prosper to the city. The city’s population rapidly grew, but the majority of the new inhabitants were males working on the dam and completely unattached to the city.

Old Las Vegas photo history

Rich business owners and members of the mafia soon realized that there was profit to be made from the dam workers, opening casinos and showgirl venues to provide entertainment to the new residents of the city. The Prohibition didn’t stop them from drinking alcohol and engaging in other, at the time, socially unwanted behaviors.

Mafia Las Vegas

At the beginning of the 1930s, gambling was legalized in Las Vegas, paving the way for the city to become the gambling center of the Western world. The government tried to stop this but the Mob was bent on having it their way, so they started smuggling dam workers in Las Vegas. This period is known as the Helldorado Days.

After World War II, Las Vegas became what it is today – a fairytale-like city with glamorous hotels, casinos, and entertainment venues. Millions of tourist visited Las Vegas, not only to gamble but also to see Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Liberace, and Bing Crosby perform. The following nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site only contributed to the popularity of Las Vegas, where people came for out of the ordinary experiences and unadulterated fun.

Frank Sinatra Las Vegas

In 1959, the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign was built. The 1960s saw the rise of the amalgam of hotels and casinos, with the support of heavy hitters such as Howard Hughes, and the rest is, as they say, history.

With the opening of the mega-casino resort Mirage in 1989 and the Fremont Street Experience in 1995, Las Vegas only reinforced its position as the Entertainment Capital of the World on the global entertainment map. It continues not just to tolerate but also promote entertainment in its many forms, proudly bearing its nickname – Sin City.