Las Vegas Casinos & Gambling
Las Vegas has the distinction of being the largest U.S. city founded in the 20th century, and now has one of the countries’ largest metropolitan areas, boasting 2 million people these days.
They certainly didn’t start out big though and this city took several decades to even get off the ground. It was founded in 1905 as a stopover for the Union Pacific Railway on its journey from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, and the railway auctioned off the land back then in what is now the city’s downtown area.
Nevada was actually the first state in the U.S. to legalize and regulate gambling, all the way back in 1864, although the regulation part only lasted 5 years, after which it was simply decriminalized, meaning that the state didn’t take an active role in licensing and controlling it, but gambling was left alone by the law.
This changed during the very early years of Las Vegas though, and in 1910, gambling was made illegal in Nevada, although this didn’t exactly put an end to it in this new city. The railway though, who pretty much ran the city back then, wasn’t fond of gambling, so a compromise was struck were a city block was set aside for gambling as well as prostitution.
So Las Vegas was quite tolerant of gambling since the very beginning, although in these early years the casino industry wasn’t exactly booming, it just catered to local railway workers with its few small Old West style gambling joints.
Las Vegas Starts To Grow As Legalized Gambling Returns
The early 1930’s saw the city expand significantly, going from just a few hundred residents at the outset to breaking 5,000 in 1930. The Hoover Dam, the largest civil engineering project in the history of the U.S., was built around this time, and more and more people were moving to Las Vegas.
While the workers at the dam were housed outside the city, many would travel the short distance to Las Vegas and this was the city’s first taste of gambling tourism, on the road to becoming the number one tourist destination in the world in time.
Gambling became legal once again here in 1931, and the casino industry here did grow, although slowly. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that things really began to take off, especially during World War II which brought many people to the area, particularly from a new magnesium plant and a gunnery school being built in the area.
Many tourists now came from Southern California, after the completion of a new highway, Highway 91. This started the boom in the area now known as the strip, with the building of the first resort there, called the El Rancho Vegas.
It was a big step up in both size and class and inspired many more resorts, including the Flamingo, completed by mobster Bugsy Sigel.
The 1950’s saw the building of the Nevada Test Site, which not only didn’t scare the people here, it was actually a big tourist attraction, as people would come to see the world’s biggest fireworks show, the detonation of nuclear bombs only 65 miles outside the city. Being exposed to radiation didn’t bother them as they were not told about the danger back then.
In an effort to attract more tourists, the biggest names in show business were brought in, and this was the heyday of the Las Vegas entertainment industry, and the lineup then was considerably more impressive than it is today. These weren’t B level acts that you see on the casino circuit these days, they had the A list, and playing Las Vegas back then was as big as things got in show business.
Las Vegas Starts to Go Corporate
Organized crime was heavily involved in gambling during the first few decades of the casino boom in Las Vegas, and mob money financed most of the new casinos during this period, so this did help the city grow quite a bit. Banks were not fond of lending money for casinos at this time, but the mob was more than happy to do the lending, particularly though the Teamsters Union.
The 1960s saw even more growth, but the Nevada government in 1969 wanted to make Las Vegas gambling more corporate, so they passed a law making it more lucrative for the corporate world to get in on the action here. At the same time, state officials were putting more pressure on the mob to try to drive them out of town.
A big turning point in this transformation happened when the Desert Inn wanted to evict one of their tenants, billionaire Howard Hughes, from occupying the entire top floor of the hotel. Hughes and his entourage didn’t gamble, and the hotel wanted to replace this floor with more profitable customers.
So Hughes just went out and bought the hotel casino, and after he realized the tax advantages of this, he went out and bought 5 more from the various mobsters who owned them. Hughes is credited for cleaning up the image of the casino industry here.
The 1980s saw this trend continue, and toward the end of the decade a man named Steve Wynn would effect another transformation, one bigger than the city had ever seen. Wynn is credited for being the founder of modern Las Vegas, and the casinos he built would surpass anything the world had ever seen.
Vegas now became not just a place to gamble, but a true resort destination, of the highest quality. Wynn’s first project, the Mirage, opened as the world’s biggest hotel, and that was just the start of things.
Since then, many of the old hotels came down and were replaced by mega resorts, a trend that still continues today. Tourists coming to Las Vegas during the 1990’s more than doubled, going from 15 million to 35 million a year, and has since grown to 40 million a year today.
Gambling In Las Vegas Today
Las Vegas is simply the Mecca of gambling, and one of the mottos of the city is there’s no place like Vegas, and this is certainly the case. For decades, the state of Nevada had the only legalized casino gambling in the country, with the majority of it occurring in the city of Las Vegas, but in spite of the wide availability of casino gambling throughout the country now, Las Vegas still does a huge amount of business and remains in a class by itself.
In a real sense, other land based gambling operations are at an earlier stage in their development, offering casino gambling but on a smaller scale, offering resorts and hotels but lacking the sheer size, glitz, appeal, and wide amenities that the biggest Vegas mega resorts do, and having so much all in one place as Vegas does surely presents a big advantage to them.
Gambling is of course legal here, and this is a gambling driven city, its largest industry by far. One can select from a multitude of places to stay at, of various qualities, from the economical, offering guests tremendous value for their money, to the most opulent.
The biggest thing Las Vegas offers may be the amazing value here, and at some places you can get four star accommodations at a cost at or below what you would pay at a cheap motel on the side of the road. With so many world class resorts located so close together, one can move among them, and there’s so much to do and see here besides the gambling that it’s incredible, and this is where Las Vegas perhaps stands out the most from the crowd.
Online Gambling Hits Las Vegas
Nor surprisingly, the state of Nevada was the first to offer regulated online gambling in the United States. While this is currently limited to playing poker online, and there is just a single poker site up and running with only a modest amount of traffic, this is at least a start.
For whatever reasons, perhaps due to concerns from land based casino lobbyists, online casino gambling is not yet available here, as it is in New Jersey, and online casino action is quite a bit more popular than online poker, as evidenced by the results in New Jersey where most of the gambling revenue comes from the casino side.
People in Las Vegas don’t have to go far to play at a casino though, and it’s the poker market and not the casino market that is underserved here, as land based poker generally is, because poker doesn’t deliver the profit per hour that casino tables or slots do.
Land based casinos are simply everywhere here, including a lot of so called locals casinos, which tend to be looser and offer better rewards and are designed to cater to the more sophisticated gamblers who live here, and there are a lot of those.
Las Vegas is also home to the country’s largest legal sports betting operation, by far, and many casinos here, and all the big ones, offer players the ability to bet on a wide variety of sporting events, in addition to offering lots of casino action to go along with it.
Contrary to popular belief, it is actually legal to gamble online all you want in Nevada, and one is not restricted in any way to playing poker on the regulated site. The law here clearly excludes players from its prohibitions and is solely directed at online gambling operators.
Since there’s no federal laws that restrict players from gambling online either, there’s just no law at all against this in Nevada, period, not that there is a way they could catch you doing this if there was.
However, these laws, which apply to operators both in and outside the state that offer online gaming to their residents, have led to many online sites shying away from accepting players from Nevada, so the options that players have available are lessened as a result, but are still substantial enough to be more than sufficient.
Las Vegas has been the king of gambling in the United States for a very long time, and in spite of a lot more competition these days, there’s no reason to expect that this will change anytime soon.
Las Vegas Casinos FAQ
What type of casino games can I play in Las Vegas?
This all depends on where you are staying or playing at, but there are no shortage of casino games throughout the massive city of Las Vegas.
Can I play at any stake level?
Yes. Whether you are a beginner looking to play low-stakes games or someone with a lot of money to spend looking to play high-stakes games, Las Vegas has you covered.
How do I stay for free?
Players are sometimes offered free play or free stays at hotels, but how they earn these casino comps is dependent on the specifications of the casino you are looking to play at.
How quickly are payouts processed?
Unlike online casinos, all you have to do in Las Vegas is take your chips to the casino’s banker and you will exchange them for cash. It really is that simple.
Can I gamble online in Las Vegas?
Yes. Las Vegas, and Nevada on the whole, has an intrastate online casino network where you can play all your favorite casino games online.