Compared to other U.S. cities, Las Vegas is surprisingly young. Though early settlers made their way to the area known now as the Las ... more »Vegas Valley in the 1820s, Sin City's notorious history didn't pick up until nearly a century later when it became thick with speakeasies catering to tourists and traveling businessmen. Crime followed as people with connections to the Irish mob and Italian and Jewish mafias began arriving in hordes.
Gambling was legalized in 1931 and, with the completion of the Hoover Dam, electricity became available in Las Vegas, and Fremont Street became known as Glitter Gulch for all of the bright lights. El Rancho Vegas was the first resort to open on the Las Vegas Strip in 1941, but it wasn't until the Flamingo opened in 1946, which gangster Bugsy Siegel financed with the help of fellow mob boss Meyer Lansky, that the mafias had any control over the hotels and clubs in Las Vegas.
In the 1950s, live entertainment began to draw tourists to Las Vegas. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and other movie and music stars cemented their place in the city's history. Since then, organized crime has been curtailed, performers have come and gone, old hotels have been imploded and new hotels have taken their place.
Howard Hughes, who invested $300 million in Las Vegas real estate, hotels and media outlets in 1966, effectively turned the city into a cosmopolitan destination overnight, but the megaresort era didn't begin until Steve Wynn constructed the Mirage in 1989 with money made from Wall Street. This new standard for Vegas luxury has paved the way for even bigger and more luxurious resorts over the years, which has attracted tourists by the millions. Today, MGM Grand is largest hotel on the Las Vegas Strip with 5,690 rooms. less «