There’s no doubt that the Las Vegas Strip is amongst the biggest, most famous tourist attractions in the world. Featured in countless movies and praised in legendary songs, The Strip is as renowned today as it was decades ago. Simply put, virtually everyone on earth is familiar with The Strip, or has at least heard of it. There are few other tourist attractions that can make the same claim.
The Strip spans a total of four miles and is home to several casinos, resorts, retail outlets, and hotels. Many of the most luxurious hotels in the world can be found there, some of which are almost as well-known as Vegas itself. Anyone that’s watched Oceans 11, for example, is already familiar with one of the most famous casino resorts in the world, The Bellagio.
As far as the history of The Strip is concerned, the iconic location dates back to the 1940s. Though the area was very different back then and had a very different reputation. Read on to discover how a dusty, largely ignored section of Highway 91 grew into one of the best-known gambling landmarks in the world.
In The Beginning
During the early days, the Las Vegas Strip was nothing more than a simple two-lane highway. All the area had to offer tourists was a handful of gas stations and perhaps a few remote motels. But there was something the highway did have in spades; enormous potential.
A few entrepreneurs recognised that the remoteness of the Nevada desert had many benefits, prime among them that the area was distinctly separate from the rest of America. What if, those developers thought, there was a tourist attraction that boasted the tagline what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Thus, development started, with the first project being a hotel and casino.
It wasn’t long before the first official Vegas landmark was built – El Rancho Vegas. The establishment opened its doors to much fanfare in 1941, featuring various live shows and other attractions. El Rancho, impressive at the time but tame in comparison to what exists today, was a huge success. Tourists flocked to the casino, impressed not only by the luxury of the establishment but by the remoteness of its location. It should also be kept in mind that in the 40s no one had the convenience of something like Big Dollar online casino. If you wanted to play casino games in the 40s you had to travel to where it was legal; the Nevada Desert.
Multiple new investors then also began to smell the potential, triggering a veritable desert gold rush. New casinos and hotels quickly popped up at record pace, swiftly transforming a dusty stretch of the Nevada wasteland into an entertainment wonderland.
It was also around this time that Vegas caught the eye of some less than savoury characters; the mob. Amongst the first casinos built was the famous Flamingo Hotel, an establishment that still exists to this day. Though, the premises no longer operates under the name The Flamingo.
The Flamingo opened its doors to the public in 1946, with construction orchestrated by mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Most consider that The Flamingo was the first true luxury casino on The Strip, surpassing every other establishment by a mile in the opulence department.
To put it another way; The Flamingo became the standard for Vegas development. Every other casino that followed had to at least match the luxury of The Flamingo, if not surpass it.
The Boom Continues
Over the years that followed The Strip continued to grow and develop. New hotels and entertainment establishments opened on a regular basis, pushing the city ever further into the surrounding desert.
It was in 1952 that the Sands Hotel and Casino opened, ushering in a new era. The hotel made history not only for its extravagance, but because one of its owners was none other than Frank Sinatra. The Sands gained a reputation for offering the best musical entertainment on The Strip, backed by world renowned names like Sinatra himself, as well as Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin.
The tradition of great musical entertainment continues in Vegas to this day.
Growing The Economy
The next era of massive growth was brought on by the construction of the Hoover Dam; the 1960s. Once construction of the dam had been authorised, predictably, large numbers of unemployed people made the trek to Nevada. Before long Las Vegas had grown from a city of 5,000 to between 15,000 and 20,000. This, inevitably, pushed the local economy into the stratosphere, eventually giving us the Vegas we know today.
Few even remember that it all started with a dusty stretch of highway, a few enthusiastic entrepreneurs, and a dream to transform a desert into a wonderland. There was, of course, an era of lawlessness brought on by the mob. But those times have long past, and Las Vegas today is run strictly according to the law. Yet if it wasn’t for Bugsy Siegel, The Flamingo would never have opened and The Strip would never have gained a reputation for luxury and extravagance. Modern performers can thank Frank Sinatra for making Vegas the place where the best musicians in the world can be seen in person.
Las Vegas, and The Strip, are landmarks today because of the turbulent past. That the past was sometimes shady is all part of what makes the city so iconic today.
- Few people realise that the Strip is actually not located within the city limits of Vegas. Instead, it technically falls within the jurisdiction of Clark County.
- Each year, more than 51 million people visit the famous Strip.
- The Las Vegas Strip is considered the brightest place on Earth when viewed from outer space thanks to the millions of lights.
- The Strip is home to more than half of the 20 largest hotel chains in the world.
- The MGM Grand Hotel’s Bronze Lion statue weighs 50 tons, which makes it the largest bronze sculpture in the US.
- Casinos on the Strip never use dice with rounded corners.