Situated in the midst of the southern Nevada desert, Las Vegas is the largest city in the state of Nevada. Nicknamed Sin City, Las Vegas and its surrounding communities are famed for their mega-casino resorts, often lavishly decorated with names and themes meant to evoke romance, mystery, and exotic destinations. Along the brightly-lit Strip through the center of the city, visitors will find all manner of amusements and entertainment: circuses, stage shows, thrill rides, erotica, exotic animals, fine dining restaurants, nightclubs, shopping, and elaborate fountain displays, to say nothing of the age-old allure of gambling and drinking.
Compared with other American cities, even those in the western United States, Las Vegas is a relatively recent arrival. It was founded in 1905 and for many years was a fairly small settlement. However, several pivotal events in the early- to mid-20th century catapulted Las Vegas to prominence and set it on the path to grow into what it is today. First was the construction of nearby Hoover Dam from 1931 until 1936, which brought thousands of workers to the area. Second was the legalization of gambling by the state of Nevada in 1931, which led to the establishment of casinos and speakeasies that established Downtown Las Vegas as an entertainment center for the Hoover Dam workers.
Amidst rapid growth in the local gambling industry, the luxurious El Rancho Vegas resort opened in 1941 on what would later become the Las Vegas Strip. This was followed up by Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's Flamingo Hotel in 1946, starting the building boom and one-upmanship that continues today. This would also create a precedent of organized crime involvement in Nevada's gambling industry. While federal regulations and enforcement as well as investments by established corporations have virtually wiped out any mob involvement today, the building bonanza continues with ever-more elaborate resorts and attractions being constructed. Read more