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Las Vegas Gambling History

Las Vegas Gambling History: Main Facts

Nevada used to be a swamp in prehistoric times. With time, water disappeared and the territory became arid where only strong animals and plants could survive. Water got trapped underground thus creating an oasis in the middle of the desert.

 It remained this way for centuries. Except for native Americans, no one knew of its existence to a great extent thanks to the harshness of Mojave Desert which surrounded the valley and kept it virgin. In 1829, a Mexican expedition leaded by Antonio Armijo was heading to Los Angeles when they camped nearby the present Las Vegas. Rafael Rivera, one of the members of the expedition, went for water and he discovered Las Vegas Springs. In 1844, John C. Fremont led an expedition to the Springs, where he camped. A hotel and casino in Las Vegas was named after him, as well as one of the main roads through Glitter Gulch.


The state of Nevada was the first to legalize casino gambling. In 1910 it outlawed gambling, but the strict anti-gambling law did not last even three weeks in Vegas. Gambling lovers gathered clandestinely and exchanged passwords to access the games. Las Vegas gambling flourished although it was illegal.

 In 1931, the Nevada Legislature legalized gambling. Phil Tobin was the author of the legalizing bill. Actually, he was not interested in gambling but understood the need to collect taxes and raise public schools funds. As a matter of fact, up until today, over 43 % of state funds in Las Vegas come from gambling revenues and 34 % is used for public education purposes.


During the Great Depression legalized gambling returned to the state of Nevada. Construction works began on the Hoover Dan Project which employed over 5,000 people. Thus, even when the country was suffering economic hardships, the state of Nevada survived thanks to the railroad development, gambling and construction.

During the days of World War II Las Vegas gambling experienced a remarkable growth which was only the beginning of a wealthy empire. In 1941, Tommy Hull built El Rancho Vegas Hotel-Casino on what is now empty land in front of the Sahara Hotel. El Rancho was very successful in the 1940’s and attracted more casino enterprises to the area. Among the first hotels that were built in Las Vegas are Thunderbird, Last Frontier or the Club Bingo.