Feeling lucky? Las Vegas is calling your name! Whether you’re a high roller or a casino newbie, you’ll find plenty of places and opportunities where you can test your luck in the gambling capital of the world. You’ll be in good company, too: nearly 36 million visitors flock to the city each year to gamble, let loose, and enjoy all Las Vegas has to offer. Located in Clark County, Nevada, Las Vegas is home to 104 casinos. Nearly half of those casinos are located on or close to Las Vegas Boulevard, the brightly-lit stretch of road called “The Strip.” Some of the most well-known, most luxurious casinos and resorts can be found on the Strip, including the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, Paris, Mirage, Monte Carlo, Mandalay Bay, Harrah’s, and the Wynn. In addition to gaming, these establishments offer top of the line entertainment, featuring pop stars like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, extravagant performances by Cirque de Soleil, and more.
Early Las Vegas casinos
Gambling is synonymous with Las Vegas. But did you know it wasn’t always legal? Gambling was officially legalized in Las Vegas in 1931. At that time, local business owners rushed to capitalize on a new opportunity to their increase profits. The earliest casinos were small establishments, primarily bars and hotels, that had been converted into makeshift casinos. Most were located on Fremont Street and decorated to reflect the Old West. The Meadows Casino was the first casino to be built from the ground up. It was also the city’s first casino-hotel complex. Built by Tony Cornero, an infamous mobster and gambling entrepreneur variously known as “The Hat” and “Admiral Cornero,” the Meadows opened in 1932. Guests clamored to spend their money at the casino and the accompanying Red Room Cabaret and Gold Ballroom. Closed in 1936, the casino was later destroyed by a fire.
Las Vegas game changer: The fabulous Flamingo
In 1946, The Flamingo Hotel & Casino opened to much fanfare. The brainchild of Hollywood Reporter founder Billy Wilkerson and charismatic gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the now-legendary casino was a game changer. Eschewing the Old West theme most casinos sported, Wilkerson and Siegel had the Flamingo built in the modernist style favored by Hollywood. Where earlier casinos evoked imaged of cowboys, wranglers, and tumbleweed, the Flamingo was glittery and glamorous. Celebrities and movie stars flocked to the new casino. The establishment paved the way for the luxurious resort casinos that dot the Las Vegas landscape today.
Bugsy Siegel was especially smitten with Tinsel Town and loved to mingle with celebrities. Siegel made quite an impression himself: he was the inspiration behind the character Moe Green in the critically acclaimed film The Godfather, and later was portrayed by Warren Beatty in the hit movie “Bugsy.”
The hotel fared far better than the man behind it. The Flamingo remains a mainstay in Las Vegas and continues to visitors from around the world. Siegel, however, was murdered by the mob in 1947, just one year after opening the celebrated casino.
A trips around the world
Today, Las Vegas boasts some of the nation’s most glamorous hotels and casinos. Visitors can gamble at establishments decorated to reflect myriad themes and exotic locales from around the world. Ancient Egypt is represented by The Luxor, which was built to resemble a pyramid and features a grand reproduction of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Each night, the Luxor Sky Beam sends out a stream of light through the hotel’s peaked roof. Fashioned after the City of Light, Paris Las Vegas features a fully accessible 540-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower; an elevator takes visitors to the top of the structure for an impressive view of the Strip. The Venetian perfectly mimics Italian architecture and ambiance and features an intricate indoor maze of canals complete with gondolas and cheerful, singing gondoliers. A loving homage to the Big Apple, New York, New York features smaller scale replicas of The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Fabulous Fremont Street casinos
Tony Corner’s Meadows Casino may be long gone but Fremont Street is populated with plenty of other hotels and gambling houses. Located in the downtown area of Las Vegas, the area is rich with entertainment and also serves as a more budget friendly alternative to the Strip. Here, under a canopy of lights, visitors can choose from twenty different casinos. Visitors looking to roll the dice without breaking the bank can take advantage of lower betting limits at these smaller casinos. Like the earliest casinos, some of these venues feature an Old West theme. Vegas Vic, a neon sign shaped like a cowboy is a familiar sight to visitors of Fremont Street. Once the mascot of the since-closed Pioneer Club, the neon cowboy is a reminder of the casinos of yesterday.
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