Ask anyone which is the most famous city in the world for entertainment and gambling, chances are most people will quickly say Las Vegas. This remarkable city in the desert attracts millions of visitors each year, both from around the United States and elsewhere around the world.
But how did this unique location come to be? How did the entertainment and gambling culture evolve? How has this city managed to stay strong in the face of digital competition? That’s what we’ll explore as we delve into the past, present, and the future of Las Vegas.
From Hitching Post to Hight of Entertainment
Long before the area surrounding modern Las Vegas was even given a name, nomadic Paleo-Indians regularly travelled through the area some 10,000 years ago, leaving petroglyphs that were discovered to the delight of local archaeologists. Native American cultures also knew this area as home, with Anasazi and Paiute tribes dating back more than 2,000 years.
The first overseas visitors discovered the valley in 1829, when the Old Spanish Trail was being forged from Santa Fe in Mexico to Los Angeles in California. The lush local grasses and abundant desert springs made this an ideal hitching post on their long journey, which also led to the Las Vegas name they gave this idyllic spot, which means “the meadows” in Spanish.
1844 brought the arrival of John C. Frémont, an American explorer and military officer, whose written works encouraged the arrival of pioneers and prospectors to the area, along with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They built the Old Mormon Fort which still remains, serving as a halfway point on their trail from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles.
As more people flocked to start new lives, Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905 when land alongside the Union Pacific Railroad was auctioned, becoming what is now the downtown area. The first big population explosion came in 1931 with the construction of the nearby Hoover Dam, thousands of workers and their families expanded the city. As the need for entertainment boomed, gambling in Las Vegas was also legalized that same year.
Following the establishment of what would become Nellis Air Force Base, the city began to expand at a rapid pace throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, while Las Vegas was also known as the “Atomic City” that period, due to the frequent testing of nuclear weapons until 1963. Of course, by the 1960’s, the city was also gaining its name as the American and even world capital of entertainment and gambling.
Also known as “Sin City” due to being a hub of illicit gambling and vice, largely run by crime families and mobsters from elsewhere in the United States, the image began to change when tycoons like Howard Hughes and large corporations began buying up properties, building lavish new mega-resorts and hotel-casinos. Gambling was now legitimate, while Las Vegas became a second home for the biggest names from Hollywood and Broadway. Since then, the city never stopped growing.
Has Digital Competition Affected Las Vegas
Considering how popular online gaming and gambling has become over the last couple of decades, it would be natural to think that Las Vegas might have suffered as a result. After all, how could a static location hope to compete with something virtual, given that online casino gaming has become one of the booming digital industries during that time.
For one thing, there are far more games available to play at an online casino – slots, blackjack, roulette – every kind you can imagine and with more variants. Huge as they are, even the biggest Las Vegas casino is limited by floorspace, whereas in cyberspace, casino websites can host as many games as they want.
Likewise, online casino gaming has become a truly global phenomenon, largely thanks to the increased convenience. Players can log into casino sites and with the click of a mouse button, play their favourite games from home, without the need to even think about a trip to Las Vegas. Mobile casino gaming also means they can play from practically any other location, gaming on the move by simply swiping the screen of their smartphone or tablet.
Las Vegas is Still Growing
The lights are still shining brightly in Las Vegas, and casinos there have adapted to the new digital era. Indeed, many of the major gaming corporations have actually launched online enterprises of their own, using their established brand names to great success in the United States, where online gambling is gradually being legalised in states beyond Nevada. Some even have progressive slots, linked to video slots in the physical casinos.
Interestingly, of the 25 fastest growing cities in America in 2020 according to Business Insider, three are actually suburban areas around Las Vegas itself. These include Spring Valley, Henderson, and Enterprise, which have all experienced rapidly growing populations and economies. That wouldn’t be economically possible unless the hub city they surround wasn’t also flourishing.
Clark County in Nevada, which incorporates the core urban area of Las Vegas, experienced a population growth of more than 315,000 residents between 2010 and 2019, making it one of the fastest growing counties in the United States during that period. Data such as this clearly indicates that even in the digital age, with more competition in both gambling and entertainment markets, Las Vegas continues to keep growing.
What the Future Holds for Las Vegas
So long as the nearby Hoover Dam keeps on providing electricity (some say the structure will stand for 10,000 years), it’s fairly safe to say the dazzling lights of Las Vegas will keep on shining brightly. Seriously, though, this is a city and tourism hub which knows how to adapt and evolve, always capable of meeting changing times and demands with innovative solutions, just as it has done for well over 100 years.
This is a city which will also keep its reputation intact as the pre-eminent global capital of entertainment and gambling, principally because Las Vegas is always at the forefront of innovation in both of these sectors. That’s why the biggest names in entertainment continue to flock there at every opportunity, and why many of the leading gaming and gambling companies are headquartered there.
Whether it’s the exciting entertainment and gambling, the fusion of cuisine and cultures, the abundance of both man-made and natural wonders; there’s always plenty to discover and lure travellers back to Las Vegas again and again.