LAS VEGAS, FROM ITS FOUNDATION UNTIL IT WAS DEVELOPED AS THE WORLD POKER CAPITAL

LAS VEGAS, FROM ITS FOUNDATION UNTIL IT WAS DEVELOPED AS THE WORLD POKER CAPITAL

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Las Vegas is located in the State of Nevada. The population of its metropolitan area is approximately 2 million people. Nowadays it is one of the main tourist attractions of USA. Until recently, it has been considered the world capital of the game. However, the territory that today occupies the city was habited for more than 10,000 years by Native Americans.

Las Vegas received its current name in 1829, when a caravan of about 60 men, led by Spanish-Mexican Antonio Armijo, passed through the area, on the way to Los Angeles. The expedition baptized the place as Las Vegas, because it was an extensive green region, created around springs, which contrasted with the surrounding Mojave Desert. Las Vegas passed from Mexico to the United States in 1855. In 1864 it was built Fort Baker and an agreement was reached with the natives to occupy the area.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the springs were channelled towards the urban nucleus and the existence of a continuous supply of safe water allowed the population growth. Las Vegas became a “water stop”, first for caravans and later for railways.

Oddly enough, Nevada was banned from gambling in 1910, and it was haunted in Las Vegas. The city grew under the auspices of the railway companies and the economic support of the federal government. However, in 1917, the city’s main railroad company went bankrupt and Las Vegas was plunged into a major crisis that would last for a decade.

The solution to the decline came in 1930, when President Herbert Hoover decided to build a huge dam that would later be called the Hoover Dam. The need for labour made the population of Las Vegas grow from 5,000 to 25,000. Being mostly young men, the city began to develop services adapted to their demands and needs. And so, appeared in there the first illegal casinos and a few clubs of showgirls, managed by businessmen and gangsters.

In 1931, the state of Nevada decided to legalize the game, understanding that casinos could become a great source of income for the city. And they got it right, as it was the first step to turn a lost city into the middle of the desert in the game capital. The Northern Club was the first casino to get a license to operate legally in Las Vegas in 1931. And after it, emerged clubs as Las Vegas Club and the Apache Hotel, all of them on Freemont Street, which became the first paved street of the city.

The federal government attempted to curb the arrival of workers from the Hoover Dam to Las Vegas and this led to a reduction in the number of gambling dens and a business recession.
The dam was completed in 1935 and two years later Southern Nevada Power supplied power to Las Vegas, which was lit with thousands of lights.

The Hoover Dam became a tourist attraction and began to receive visitors, prompting Las Vegas entrepreneurs to create hotels. In addition, in 1940, US Route 95 arrived to Las Vegas, facilitating road access to the city. The participation of EEUU in World War II favoured the creation of an artillery school in the city. The high command of the army didn’t welcome the fact that prostitution was legal and forced local authorities to ban it.

In the 1940s, the first resorts of the Strip were built, such as El Rancho Vegas, Last Frontier Hotel or Flamingo, owned by gangster Bugsy Siegel. The economic potential of Las Vegas soon caught the attention of other gangsters, so organized crime began to take positions in the city, in order to get the most out of its booming economy. The alliance of gangsters with Mormon investors allowed the construction in the 1950s of many gambling centres, such as Sahara, Riviera, Tropicana or Binion’s Horseshoe.

In 1954, about 8 million people visited the city and played about 200 million dollars in their casinos. And the game was not the only attraction, as the most shining stars of film and music acted there (Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, etc.).

The spread of organized crime generated in the USA Senate the will to control that city, where practically everything was allowed and, moreover, it was legal. Las Vegas continued growing in the 1960s and 1970s. Little by little, the influence of organized crime was declining, as the Second World War generation grew older. In the late 80’s began the Megaresort era, with the construction of The Mirage. Little by little, the old hotels were being demolished, leaving space for super luxury resorts, with thousands of rooms and large casinos. After Mirage, were built megaresorts as Rio, MGM Grand, Luxor, Bellagio and Venetian and, in the new millennium, Planet Hollywood and Wynn.

In 2003, a complete unknown named Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, provoking the so-called “Moneymaker Effect”, which meant the popularization of poker in USA and, subsequently, throughout the world. Moneymaker, an amateur player, made the dream of many people come true: getting rich playing poker in Las Vegas. His feat contributed to turning the city into the world capital of the game.

Today, it is not. Macao has overcome it. However, Las Vegas remains the poker capital of the world and a place where all of us want to go or come back to.

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