Surely, Las Vegas (a.k.a. Sin City) needs no introduction to even those who couldn’t give a fig for casino gaming; in America and worldwide, the name is synonymous with the very concept of gambling and the city wouldn’t be a shadow of its glittery, garish self without the vision most notoriously promoted by Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and his boys after legalization of gambling there back in the 1930s.
From that time to today, there is no substitute for proper gambling in America than that to be found in the embarrassment of riches that is Las Vegas.
Today, the town is run on gambling, tourism (based on gambling, let’s face it), and conventions (ditto, mostly). “The Strip” has long been a freestanding independent economy of its own – at least according to Joel Garreau’s “Edge City: Life on the New Frontier.”
Population: 603,488 (2013)
Area: 135.9 sq. mi.
Gambling Age (Casinos): 21
Gambling Age (Lottery): n/a
Number of Casinos: 104 (as of January 1, 2017)
• Las Vegas hosts over 100,000 of the state’s 175,000-plus slot machines.
• Las Vegas is home to more native Hawaiians than anywhere except, well, Hawaii.
• Contrary to popular belief, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is not the city’s official motto. Though there was once a petition to make it so…
• More shrimp is eaten in Las Vegas than in the rest of the U.S. combined.
Prior to the all-important year of 1931, Las Vegas could barely be called a town. A little over 5,100 called the “city” home, but this number was dropping along with the new jobs beating created in silver mining that had created American settlement in Las Vegas in the 1860s.
In that year, however, the state’s governor and legislature saw fit to enact sweeping changes into state law: In one year, gambling and divorce were legalized throughout the state, while the federal government announced a contract to build what would become known as Hoover Dam had been awarded. The new divorce law allowed Reno to corner a strange cottage industry, while gambling naturally made Vegas, Reno and other areas more attractive to tourists and other imports. In fact, a federal munitions factory in Henderson was reported as having the highest employee absentee rates of any such plant in the U.S. by a wide margin; this was blamed on the attractions of nearby Las Vegas.
But it was the technological wonder of Hoover Dam that made – and continues to make – Las Vegas tick, bringing enough water to support a 12,000%-plus increase in population, not to mention the nearly 40 million who visit annually, increasing the city’s populous by over 110,000 on an average day. Today, it is said that Las Vegas is the brightest spot on Earth when viewed from space.
Despite the massive feat of engineering and the political machinations of then-governor Fred Balzar, though, the figure most associated with Las Vegas’s rise in prominence is Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel – and not just because of the fantastic 1991 Warren Beatty film.
Las Vegas was beginning to earn a reputation when Siegel arrived there in 1942, celebrated an acquittal on murder charges back in New York. However, Siegel may be credited with Sin City’s subsequent explosive growth, based on his inspiration to build massive complexes and full-on resorts to go with the gambling machines and tables. Nor can the effect of his bringing in mob money to invest in his Flamingo Casino project, thereby allowing a torrent of millions of dollars to flow into infrastructure development in the city.
Indeed, within a decade or so, Las Vegas was entering its Golden Age. The economic post-war boom, the creation of interstate highways, the proliferation of the automobile and the promise of lots of legalized vice soon made Las Vegas one of America’s top tourist destinations. Acts like Liberace and the Rat Pack singers became staples in Las Vegas casino lounges and going to a Vegas show was soon the western equivalent of checking out the latest Broadway musical in New York. When Elvis Presley eseentially called Las Vegas home in the 70s, the reputation of the city for hosting old-timey entertainers was solidified.
Today, Las Vegas doesn’t reign quite as supreme as it once did among gamblers: The passage of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 brought legalized casino gambling to many US states, thereby negating the need to travel to Vegas for some action. In fact, Macao has surpassed Vegas as the gambling capital of the world in terms of income derived. Business is still going great in Las Vegas, though, and very few casino outlets are having business difficulties in the 2010s.
In short, we’ll tell you that there’s over 100 full-on casino outlets in Las Vegas plus various electronic gambling machines everywhere. Take your pick.
We will note that, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the largest casino in Las Vegas is the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort, with 186,187 square feet. It should also be noted that its 1,900 gaming machines and 167 table games do not comprise the city’s biggest collection of games.
By the 1980s, the rule in all Las Vegas casinos was firm: One must be at least 21 years old to enter and play the games.
Well, this would be far too extensive a list to run here. As of this writing, the following are some notables in the professional poker world who call Las Vegas home: Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, “Chip” Reese, Phil Ivey, Billy Baxter, Bobby Baldwin, Dan Bilzerian, Erik Seidel, Layne Flack, Allen Cunningham, An Tran, Huck Seed, Ted Forrest, Artie Cobb, David Sklansky, Scotty Fishman, John Cernuto, Paul “Eskimo” Clark, Matt Graham, Kathy Liebert, Howard Lederer, Mike Matusow, O’Neil Longson, Dick Carson, John Hennigan, Burt Boutin and, Hoyt Corkins, Dutch Boyd, Barry Shulman, Jennifer Harman Traniello, Scotty Nguyen, Chau Giang, John Juanda, Freddy Deeb, Matt Pescatori and Carlos Mortenson
The state’s 1931 law still holds: Every form of casino gambling is allowed at nearly every public place, with any business offering more than 15 such games legally obliged to apply for a casino licesne. This truth is, though, that most casinos in Las Vegas have upward of 200 slot machines/video poker games at the very least.
About the only question facing gambling in Las Vegas in the near future is what happens to sportsbook operations when the Oakland Raiders and the expansion Black Knights start playing in the NFL and NHL, respectively. The current proposals would merely disallow wagering on Las Vegas teams, but one wonders if more stringent measures will be made. Certainly, the sports fans in the city don’t care: They’re just happy to be finally called a “major league city” in the U.S.