“Vegas, baby!” That’s the rallying cry of people from all over the world as they get ready to descend on the city of Las Vegas for festivities, fun, and plenty of gambling. And whether they’re into the biggest boxing matches and fights, star-studded concerts and shows, the finest dining and most luxuries shopping on the world, dancing and partying all night long, shopping, or just lounging by the pool to watch all of the pretty people, Las Vegas has something for everyone. But few people realize the fascinating history behind America’s ‘Sin City.’ In fact, once we started documenting all of the fun and crazy trivia, there was so much we had to write two blogs! So enjoy and stay tuned or subscribe to this blog for part two, coming soon.
1. As of 2011, 368 million people visit Las Vegas every year, and visitors stay 3.7 nights on average.
2. It’s estimated that 38% of all Americans have been to Las Vegas in their lifetime!
3. 17 of the 20 biggest hotels in the United States call Las Vegas home.
4. There is one slot machine for every 2-½ resident of Las Vegas!
5. Every year, nearly 20,000 conventions hold their meetings in the city.
6. Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the U.S.
7. Every year, players lose $6-8 billion betting and gambling at Las Vegas casinos.
9. The first hotel and casino that opened in Las Vegas was the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino in 1906.
10. Gambling wasn’t always legal in Las Vegas and Nevada: a 1910 law made it illegal, though that was later repealed in 1931 by the Nevada Legislature.
11. Second only to South Africa, Nevada is the next largest gold producer in the world.
12. The Golden Nugget Hotel displays the largest gold nugget ever found, weighing 61 pounds!
13. During the era of gangsterism, the slot machines in Vegas used to be fixed to give smaller and less frequent payouts. It was largely the work of one engineer under employ of the mob, but when he threatened to go public with the admission, he was found murdered.
14. Now, it’s mandated and carefully regulated that video slot machines pay out a minimum of 75 percent on average.
15. Vegas Vic, the huge neon cowboy likeness on Fremont Street, is the largest mechanical neon sign in the world.
16. There have been many notable eccentrics in the history of Las Vegas, but non wackier than Howard Hughes. He once came to Vegas and stayed at the Desert Inn. After a few months of not leaving the management complained and asked him to leave…so he bought the hotel.
17. Hughes went on a hotel-buying spree, including the Castaways, the Landmark, New Frontier, the Sands, and the Silver Slipper. Although he also did some horrible, bizarre things, Hughes is largely credited with ending the mob stranglehold on the Vegas gaming business.
18. Las Vegas has a dark history of racism and segregation that largely has gone unrecanted. In the 1950s, the city was known as the “Mississippi of the West” because of its brutal Jim Crow practices. At first in the 1930s, it was partially racially mixed, but as Southern racist visitors started complaining about black people in the casinos, hotels, and restaurants – even if they were working – the black population was forced to West Vegas, which had dirt roads, tents and shacks, and often no running water.
19. Even famous performers like Lena Horne and Nat King Cole had to come and go through the Blacks Only exits in the back of casinos and hotels when they performed.
20. It was actually the Rat Pack and Sammy Davis Jr. who can be given some of the credit for shifting Vegas’ segregation. Davis suffered horrid racist treatment like the rest of his less-famous black people, including the hotel pool being drained after he swam in it at the request of white patrons.
21. In the 1950s the Rat Pack, with legendary headliner Frank Sinatra, refused to keep playing at the Sands Casino unless Sammy Davis Jr. was allowed to stay in the hotel like the rest of them. That brought some new attention and forced a crack of progress on the issue.
22. In 1960, the NAACP planned a massive march down the Vegas strip to protest the racial conditions. City officials met with hotel and casino owners because they were worried the march would cripple their tourism, so they decided to end formal racial segregation in the city.
23. The Moulin Rouge became the first racially integrated hotel in Las Vegas in 1955.
24. Quite a few fortunes have been lost at the Las Vegas casinos, but a few have also been made. In 1992, a man named Archie Karas turned $50 into $40,000,000! Imagine that! But then he kept playing and ended up losing it all.
25. Fred Smith, the CEO of Fed Ex, saved his young company in 1970 by gambling his last $5,000 in Vegas. He turned that 5k into $32,000 at the Blackjack tables, which was enough to keep his company expenses and payroll afloat a few days longer, at which time the company was saved with an $11 million investment.
26. In 2004, a British gambler named Ashley Revell sold all of his possession and material things, including his wardrobe, and best his last money in the world, $135,300, all on red for a single spin of roulette. He actually won, doubling his money to $270,600!
27. In the United States (not just Vegas), the legal gambling industry creates more revenue than all pro sports, theme parks, cruise ships, movies, and music combined!
An estimated 87% of all people who visit Vegas gamble.
28. On average, those gamblers spend $580.90 on betting and gamble 4 hours per day.
29. The largest age demographic to Las Vegas is actually the 65 and older crowd, at 22% of all visitors.
30. Only two decades ago, it was legal to gamble in only two states. Now, gambling is legal in some form in 48 states, with only Hawaii and Utah still strictly banning it.
31. Nevada is one of only seven states in the U.S. that does not have a state income tax. The others are Alaska, Florida, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
32. An astounding 84.4% of Nevada’s land is owned by the federal government, by far the most of any state.
33. Counting cards at the blackjack table is the subject of many movies. However, not many people realize that counting cards is not technically illegal in Las Vegas. But it is considered cheating, and violators who are caught may be suspended or banned from casinos.
34. Speaking of bans, the Nevada Gaming Control Board started keeping a black leather-bound book in the 1930’s with the names of people with a “notorious or unsavory reputation.” These people were blackballed from playing, owning, or even entering any casino or gambling establishment within the city limits. The book still exists, though it’s called the List of Excluded Persons, and currently includes 66 cheats, mobsters, card counters, and other unsavory elements.
35. The minimum age to gamble in Las Vegas is 21, not 18. Minors are allowed in the hotels and casinos but only to pass through to their rooms or destination and they are prohibited from lingering around the gaming areas, even if they’re with an adult.
36. While Vegas may be the gambling capitol of the world, it’s not universally embraced in Nevada. In fact, only 25 miles off the strip in Boulder City, gambling is illegal.
37. In Chinese culture, the number four is considered bad luck, so to cater to Asian tourists and gamblers, the Wynn Las Vergas and Rio hotels and casinos have elevators that skip from 39 to 50 to exclude the 40s.
38. There are many famous handicappers in the history of Las Vegas, but the one so good he was called King or Guru is Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. He started the first sports and race book at the Stardust Hotel and Casino and his likeness was made famous as a character in the movie Casino (played by Robert de Niro).
39. Las Vegas even has mayors larger than life, as Oscar Goodman, who came to office in 1999, used to show up at public appearances with two showgirls at his side, rejected the attempt to make Vegas family friendly, called himself “The Happiest Mayor in the Universe,” and showed up at a Q and A for 4th grader sipping martinis and responded to a question by saying his favorite pastime was drinking gin.
40. If Las Vegas and neighboring Nevada aren’t famous enough, Area 51 boosts its claim to the weirdest place on earth. Area 51 is a place in a dry lakebed in central Nevada where the government operates a top-secret military research facility, though it denied its existence until recently. Area 51 is where it’s rumored the government captured and researched aliens.
41. Area 51 employs hundred of civilian contractors, but as it’s an 8-hour commute to the next city, the government flies them in and out on a private plane for work every day.
42. The fleet of private unmarked 737s is nicknamed “Janet Airlines” due to the call sign they use.
43. The first casinos lacked safety features like water sprinklers in the entire building. There was an epic fire in the MGM Grand Hotel in 1980 where 85 people died, 679 were injured, and 2,000 people airlifted to safety from the hotel roof on helicopters.
44. Despite rumors and even common practices, prostitution is not legal in Vegas. In fact, the law only allows legal prostitution in Nevada counties with less than 400,000 residents, which was originally made the cut off number to keep brothels out of Clark County.
45. Speaking of legal, you are allowed to carry around an alcoholic beverage in Las Vegas with some restrictions: you can only leave an establishment with said beverage if they allow and it’s not in a metal or glass container (no beer cans). Also, you can’t drink within 1,000 feet of a school, hospital, or place of worship.