History of Nevada/Nevada and the American Dream (1945-present)

Atomic bomb mushroom cloud visible from Las Vegas

The Nevada Test Site [Due to the lack of references in this article, it is suggested that other sources be used for factual information]Edit

 
Yucca Flat, part of the Nevada Test Site

A Nuclear DawnEdit

The United States ushered in the atomic age with the detonation of the Trinity device, the world’s first nuclear bomb, on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico. Trinity was soon followed by what are to date the only two nuclear weapons used in war: Little Boy, which was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 1945, and Fat Man, which was dropped on Nagasaki three days later; this was done to hasten Japan’s surrender and end the Second World War. In the years following the war the United States conducted several tests in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific Ocean. However, a combination of environmental and logistical factors made the islands less than ideal for prolonged testing. As a result, a study of potential test sites within the continental United States (code-named Project Nutmeg) was initiated.

While the American South-West apparently possessed the optimum conditions for nuclear testing, the study did not propose a test site, as it was determined that a continental test site was not necessary unless a national emergency arose. This occurred when the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949, and was exacerbated when the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 threatened the United States’ test sites in the Pacific. This revived the search for a continental test site, and on December 18, 1951, President Harry S. Truman approved the selection of a site in Nye County, Nevada, near Las Vegas. Early in the morning on January 27, 1951, a nuclear bomb dropped by a B-50D bomber detonated over Frenchman Flat in the Nevada desert, roughly sixty-five miles outside Las Vegas. The success of this test, codenamed Able, marked the beginning of forty-one years of nuclear detonations at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) in Nye County, Nevada, with a moratorium on nuclear testing finally silencing the bombs in 1992.

The location of the NTS was chosen due to its favourable weather conditions, the significant military presence in the surrounding area due to the existence of other important bases like the Nellis Air Force Base Bombing and Gunnery Range, and the belief that it was far enough from most of the population to be safe, but close enough to be accessible. The NTS is approximately 105 kilometres northwest of Las Vegas, comprising a total area of approximately 3,560 square kilometres.

The "Testing Community"Edit

At first, the local population was supportive of the NTS, as it brought with it the promise of jobs that were desperately needed in the sparsely populated area. Nearby communities were reassured by the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) that there were multiple safeguards in place to ensure the safety of the area surrounding the NTS from radioactive fallout. To assuage any fears of fallout, the AEC sent military personnel called “radiation monitors” into the communities surrounding the NTS to provide the public with information about the testing.

Public support started to wane after witnessing the dangerous side of fallout exposure. In 1953, approximately five thousand sheep directly east of the NTS were severely injured, with the AEC denying that exposure to nuclear fallout had anything to do with these injuries. The AEC's denial of these claims created a deep rift between the locals and the government. This was partly due to the way in which the AEC treated the ranchers in the region during this investigation, labeling them as uneducated and untrained.

Realizing that there was mistrust, the AEC set out to remedy the situation. They did this by publishing an official guide called “Atomic Tests in Nevada”. The radiation monitors were responsible for spreading these pamphlets, as well as informing the communities of the safety measures that the AEC was taking. This guide tried to downplay the magnitude of the situation, and as a gesture of good will, thanked the locals for their hospitality and apologized for any inconveniences. The AEC again assured the public that they were taking their safety into consideration, saying that if there was a chance of a heavy fallout, the radiation monitors would be able to explain what was happening. However, the radiation monitors often failed to provide the secure feelings the AEC was hoping for. One rancher described these individuals as “snotty young kids that looked down on ranchers who worked in near-isolation.”

These feelings of hopelessness and misrepresentation were exacerbated by the death of a rancher’s nephew due to exposure to nuclear fallout. The rancher had spoken out about her fears of the nuclear fallout to the AEC and its radiation monitors, but to no avail. The ranchers were not, however, the only individuals who felt that they were disenfranchised by the AEC and the NTS, as the site is located on the homeland of the Western Shoshone people. The Native Americans of this area have litigated against the use of this land since the 1970s, saying that it is protected under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley. The Western Shoshone and Southern Paiutes were heavily exposed to the nuclear fallout in this region, partly because of their lifestyle and partly because of a lack of effort on the part of the AEC in protecting these people.

 
Detonation Sequence For An Underground Nuclear Test

The Golden Age of Nuclear TestingEdit

The explosions were so powerful that they could easily be seen, heard, and felt from within Las Vegas. Baker-Two and Fox, two tests in the same series as Able (the Ranger series) had particularly dramatic effects. After Baker-Two (an eight-kiloton blast) broke at least two store windows in Las Vegas, officials warned citizens to stay away from windows for the Fox test, which was expected be more than four times as powerful with a yield of thirty-three to thirty-five kilotons. Fox ended up yielding only twenty-two kilotons, however upon reaching Las Vegas the shock-wave was still powerful enough to splinter the large show windows of two car dealerships and shake buildings with enough force to frighten gamblers into hiding under their tables, and the flash was allegedly bright enough to temporarily blind some observers. The explosion was seen and heard as far away as Los Angeles, where it shook doors and windows. In the late fifties, concerns over the dangerous radioactive fallout that was being released by atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons had sent “the testing community” in search of alternatives that would stop, or at the very least mitigate, the pollution; the eventual preferred solution was to move the tests underground, however other options such as testing in space or under water were also explored. In 1963, the Limited Test Ban Treaty prohibited tests “in the atmosphere, in outer space, and underwater,” forcing all further testing underground. The last full-scale test at the NTS occurred on September 23, 1992, after which Congress banned future tests. . As of 1993, the year that President George H.W. Bush signed a moratorium on U.S. nuclear tests, there had been an estimated total of 953 nuclear bombs detonated within the state of Nevada.

Atomic Testing in Popular CultureEdit

The atomic bomb tests in Nevada effected a cultural shift in the American population. People became fascinated by the idea of nuclear weapons, obviously not knowing the long term repercussions of such weapons. The “mushroom cloud” image became very prominent in popular culture and was a symbol that many recognized. Soon enough the whole country was fascinated by the atomic bomb, as can be seen through contemporary movies, songs, place names and advertisements. Voters showed a strong preference for candidates that supported the testing and development of atomic weapons. The frenzy around the atomic bomb was heightened in southern Nevada since the residents of the surrounding areas were the most exposed to the A-Bomb. It did not take long for the Las Vegas Strip to capitalize on the popularity of the NTS and affix the label "atomic" to drinks, hair styles and many more things in order to resonate more with American citizens. The presence of the atomic testing site in Nevada drew national attention, which also helped bring in journalists and tourists. All of this contributed to an economic boom of sorts in the southern part of Nevada, especially with regards to the already steady flow of tourists gathering in Las Vegas. The public knew two things about the bombs at this time, the first being that they were fascinating to watch and to hear about, and the second being that they were a necessary part of national security. For many of the detonations, large groups of people would gather to watch the explosion from a distance, a spectacle that would be reproduced later in American history with space shuttle launches in Texas and Florida. There was something rather patriotic about watching the tests, as they symbolized that the United States was getting stronger with every test run. The state government was also in favour of the testing. The State of Nevada passed legislation during this period allowing the United States government to acquire more land from the state in order for the NTS to grow.

 
Tests being conducted at the Nevada Test Site

Effects of Nuclear Testing in NevadaEdit

The federal nuclear site in Nevada became home to America’s nuclear defense shield called M-X or Missile Experimental. This was a retaliation method that came as a result of the idea of mutual assured destruction. As tensions between the two nations got worse the more important the Nevada nuclear site was to the defense of the nation. Programs like nuclear testing and M-X commissioned by the U.S. government scared the people of Nevada because in the event of a Soviet attack they felt they would be the first strike due to all the U.S. nuclear investments in the state. The situation stayed relevant in American relations more or less till the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 90s. The Soviet collapse, which resulted in the end of the Cold War lead the Congress under the Clinton administration to pass the Nuclear Test Moratorium Act in 1992. The Act that was passed halted all atmospheric and under ground tests on nuclear weaponry in the country, this was a big win for the people of Nevada that opposed nuclear testing in the deserts.

Once military tensions settled and the threat of nuclear war subsided the truths of what had occurred in Nevada between 1951 and 1991 started to emerge to the public. Articles and books were published that highlighted the danger of nuclear weapons and the effect it had on people’s health, residents of Utah between 1951 and 1963 were found to be exposed to atomic radiation due to radioactive downwind that was directly attributed to the atmospheric test of nuclear weapons in Nevada. The nuclear radioactivity was directly connected to thousands of deaths and illnesses of people in Nevada and surrounding areas like Utah [Needs reference]. The environmental impact this had was bad due to the nuclear waste and the actual impact of the bombs on the soil. The victims who lived in the fallout area came to be known, as down winders the large majority of these people felt the government had deceived them into thinking there was no negative impact of these nuclear tests. In doing so there were many cases in which these people won court settlements against the government.

Public Health Issues as a Result of the NTSEdit

The public pleasure that surrounded the NTS was short lived. The scientific community and the general population soon became aware of the possible dangers associated with the radiation being emitted. In fact, it was determined that “Native Americans residing in a broad region downwind from the Nevada Test Site during the 1950’s and 1960’s received significant radiation exposures from nuclear weapons testing." [Needs reference] Although much of the concern regarding the dangers of radiation exposure was undersold by the media at the time, there was still much concern within the government about the safety of the tests and the possible long term repercussions. Government officials even began telling the public that there was nothing to worry about, just as inquiries into the subject began.

The American government had launched a full scientific investigation in 1957 to find out the effects of exposure to radiation and radioactivity on health, and although this yielded many important discoveries in the field, doubts remained about the integrity of the findings and the possible conflict of interest faced by the researchers [Needs references].

The real issue regarding the emission of radiation did not concern the citizens of the surrounding areas of the Nevada Test Site, as it was those who were down wind from where the experiments took place who were in true danger. St. George, Utah, is an example of this, as it received the brunt of the fallout from above-ground nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site. Due to the winds routinely carrying the fallout from these tests directly through St. George and southern Utah. Marked increases in cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, bone cancer, brain tumors, and gastrointestinal tract cancers, were reported from the mid-1950s through 1980 [Needs references].

It is estimated that thousands of Americans have been exposed to varying levels of radiations due to the Nevada Test Site [Needs references]. To this day, it is easy to see the correlation between the atomic bomb tests and these radionuclides in American bodies, but it is hard to prove that the tests led to any serious health issues for those who were exposed to them, since they were mostly exposed to small doses. Traces of radiation emitted from the atomic bomb tests can be tracked through the air, soil and water of the areas surrounding the Nevada Test Site, especially in certain areas of Utah and Idaho. The overall damage done by the atomic bomb testing might never be quantified, but there is significant evidence that I has caused significant harm to those it was meant to protect.

Impact on Groundwater [Needs references]Edit

The spread of radiation was due in part to its exposure of groundwater by underground testing. When information detailing the radionuclide totals from the NTS was declassified by the US Department of Energy, the magnitude of the spread of these radionuclides by groundwater was finally apparent. While testing, the AEC (now the US Department of Energy) kept an inventory of forty-three radionuclides that have long half-lives. This inventory can be used to provide an estimation of the extent of radioactivity that occurred due to the underground nuclear tests conducted at the NTS. The exposure of individuals in this region to radioactive particles was increased by the contamination of their water source. The arid climate of Nevada means that groundwater is the only water source available, as there is a very limited amount of surface water sources to compliment it. Findings from the declassification of radionuclide totals of the NTS have led to the discovery that it is going to take approximately five hundred years for the radioactive isotopes from the nuclear testing at the NTS to decay.

The Legacy of America’s Atomic MeccaEdit

The importance of the NTS to America’s nuclear weapons program during the Cold War cannot be understated. Of the 1,054 nuclear tests conducted by the United States before 1992, 928 were conducted at the NTS. Put another way, eighty-eight percent of all nuclear tests conducted by the United States took place slightly north-west of Las Vegas. The great spectacles provided by the NTS made it a boon to the local economy not only because of the jobs it provided, but also because of the “atomic tourists” that came to witness the deadly fireworks. As recently as 2004, 9,000 people a year were taking tours of the NTS, despite the end of full-scale testing in 1992. The history of the NTS is preserved by the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation and its Atomic Testing Museum.

However, the NTS remains more than just a tourist attraction, as it still conducts “subcritical” tests regularly. These tests are “subcritical” because the plutonium used does not reach critical mass (which would cause a nuclear reaction). The tests are intended to maintain the functionality of the American nuclear stockpile, ensure the NTS is ready to resume full-scale testing if necessary, and preserve the benefits that the NTS provides to the economy of Nevada (such as employment).

A Nuclear CultureEdit

The post-war era was a period of massive expansion in the urban centers of Las Vegas and Reno. In the late 1930s, the population of Nevada was primarily rural; roughly two-thirds of its population was rural. In 1964, the population had shifted to only a third living in rural areas, the rest living in Las Vegas and Reno and their suburbs. Las Vegas in particular increased its population from 8,000 in 1940 to over 64,000 in 1960[1]. This was largely a result of the state’s relaxation on gambling laws that has led to its current reputation as a haven for casinos and resorts, as well as a focus on large infrastructure projects. Though growth was experienced across the entire state, it was these two cities that had really taken off from the economic boom of the time.

Growth and TestingEdit

Experiencing such growth in the 1950s has led to Nevada and Las Vegas more specifically to be a prime example of the effects of the atomic era on American culture. In 1951, the United States government had established the Nevada Test Site, a location from which nuclear weapons would be tested. Senator Pat McCarran, who was on the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees, had made the state considerably richer by convincing the Truman government to use a large unused plot of land for testing their weapons. The mushroom clouds could be seen from Las Vegas a mere sixty-five miles away, becoming a large tourist attraction. The public generally approved of the testing during this time, as it had become a large boon for tourism. The first protests occurred in 1957, but were largely ignored by the public until the 1970s. While there was a moratorium on nuclear testing in 1958 under the Eisenhower administration, tests resumed in 1962.

Futurism and the AtomEdit

 
A dancer in front of a nuclear explosion, 1953
 
The Fleischmann Atmospherium

The atom had become a symbol of modernity in the 50s, one that showed both the military and scientific prowess of the United States. This was taken as a great source of pride, an achievement only rivalled by the Soviets. Combined with the fairly recent consumerism that had taken over American lives, this became a prime opportunity to sell the public on nuclear technology. The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory was sold to children to allow children to create chemical reactions through radioactive materials. The Ford Nucleon was a conceptual car that was powered through nuclear energy, and with its futuristic design, it remains an excellent example of the naïve idealism of the 1950s. Many songs of the time had also had an atomic theme: The Five Stars’ “Atom Bomb Baby”, released in 1957, compared a woman to a one ton weapon of mass destruction whose blast would be equivalent to one million tons of trinitrotoluene. This was indicative of the coming changes to American culture, one focused on materialism and nationalism, perfectly represented by the city of Las Vegas. Images of these products were on billboards in the foreground of an atomic explosion, a typical picture of the time. These were the kind of products that were sold to the contemporary Las Vegans: a nuclear dream suspended by Communist fears and a penchant for destruction.

Futurism made its way into the rapidly expanding cities of Nevada, a sign of the optimism brought on by America’s victory against the Axis as well as its newfound love of nuclear technology. This period of growth and prosperity had allowed for futuristic designs to take hold in Las Vegas as modernity set in. The Huntridge Theatre and Moulin Rouge had been built during this time, both of which represented the opulence of contemporary America. With their straight, exaggerated features, they gave the city a look of what Americans had hoped the future would be; one of possibilities and endless growth. The Fleischmann Atmospherium Planetarium in Reno is an example outside of Las Vegas of modern architecture. This growth was not only experienced in Las Vegas; the state as a whole became richer and more vibrant. Nevada in particular showed America’s atomic future in its architecture by allowing expressionist designers to create a reflection of their culture. With so much of the state’s money coming from defense spending, and with the tourism generated from the blast sightings, much of this progress was made possible by the testing of atomic weaponry.

A Suburban, Nuclear HomeEdit

While less obvious and grand than modernist architecture, small, simple, suburban life had taken over American society. In cities all across America, massive amounts of housing was built to support war veterans and their new families that was outside the main areas of a city, a town-like experience in a metropolis. Here, nuclear families would have similar pastel-coloured houses on small plots of land where they would live the idyllic 1950s lifestyle. To support the massive increase in its population, Las Vegas had to build suburbs, though not entirely for the same reasons as other cities. In 1950, Prudential Homes built 640 houses in the western outskirts of the city, citing the Korean War as one of its reasons for doing so. Suburbs cropped up around the Strip to accommodate the influx of residents as well. While much of the population that had moved into these new suburban homes had flocked to Las Vegas for its tourism industry, these suburbs had to support the many people that worked at the Nevada Test Site. During the Cold War, it had been estimated that 125,000 people had been employed in that site alone, and with its location being so close to Las Vegas, many had to move into the city.

The Gaming IndustryEdit

Following the legalization of gambling in Nevada in 1931, the industry became dominated by attempts to capture the old-west themes of old-western saloons and fashion; however, the nature of the gaming industry would evolve drastically with the opening of the Flamingo in 1946. Also, with the outbreak of the Cold War and Cuba being unavailable to Americans as a place to gamble, mobsters such as Ben Siegel started to invest in Nevada. The state of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas are known for their active involvement in gambling, and much of the city and state’s gambling value derived from organized crime involvement in Las Vegas, as well as the rest of the state of Nevada since 1945. Mob involvement in the state was largely incited by the end of the Second World War, as the state of joy, celebration, and prosperity that the nation found itself in meant that many were seeking leisure.

 
Bugsy Siegel

LegalizationEdit

Las Vegas began as a small Railroad town in Southern Nevada, but would eventually experience large increases of population hand activity beginning with construction of the Hoover Dam in 1931. Much of the increased activity was rooted in workers heading into the town for leisure activities after their shifts. Gambling and drinking became favourite pass times of theirs.

Siegel and Growth, 1945-1989Edit

By the end of World War II, industrial resources were readily available which allowed further development in Las Vegas as it saw its population grow exponentially. The first major hotel to be built (later named The Flamingo) was envisioned by a Californian named Billy Wilkerson. Billy noticed Las Vegas’ population growing as the Hoover Dam attracted tourists from all over America. The Flamingo—built along Highway 97, which ran right through Las Vegas and known as the Las Vegas Strip—was designed as an upscale hotel where visitors could gamble and escape from their daily lives, however as funding ran out, Billy handed the project over to well-known mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, who finished construction during the summer of 1945. Siegel made the decision to take over and continue building the “god-damndest biggest hotel and casino” in Las Vegas Valley in response to the opening of El Rancho in 1940 and the Frontier in 1942. Siegel named his hotel-casino the Flamingo, supposedly inspired by the nickname he had for his girlfriend: Flamingo Doll. Siegel had made his way to Las Vegas in order to finally achieve the success he had long been chasing after in New York and Los Angeles. “Bugsy” is credited with envisioning Las Vegas as a world renowned gaming spectacle, and with his Flamingo Hotel and Casino he would make his vision become reality. Using themes like Havana and Monte Carlo, Siegel built an economic empire that would flourish for decades to come, an epicentre of gambling and prosperity, originating from the funding of organized crime.

 
Flamingo Hotel and Casino

To fulfill his dream, Siegel leveraged political and personal favours from Senator Pat McCarran, who aided Siegel in approving construction, and (after breaking ground in December 1945) to secure priority for materials over other developments such as a housing development for veterans. Initial estimates for the construction of the Flamingo ranged from $1 to 2 million; however with Siegel’s tendency to pay up to $50 for tradesmen, flying in workers from California and Arizona, and paying little mind to the theft of shipments that would be sold back to Siegel soon after, the cost to complete the development increased wildly to $6 million. The Flamingo under Siegel would struggle to reach profitability. During the initial grand opening, which lasted two weeks, the Flamingo lost $300,000. The massive loses were due in large part to the dealers cheating and a general lack of turnout. The two factors combined prevented the odds to ever play in the favour of Siegel to generate a profit. Siegel’s operation required a personal image that lived up the image of the casino itself, which translated into a strict dress code that acted as a deterrent to guests. 1948 would see Gus Greenbaum take over the Flamingo and transform it into success and achieve the dream of Siegel, who was murdered in 1947. Greenbaum acted as the archetypal mob owner of a casino through his very controlled—iron fisted governance—of the casino. Cheating dealers were “dealt with” with brutal beatings and removal. By the end of his tenure at the Flamingo in 1955, six new casino-hotels emerged between 1948 and 1955 with each attempting to out the opulence of the previous through their theming and entertainment attractions. These additions were made possible by financial support and institutional lending by the Teamsters Union, hotels including, Sahara, Tropicana, and The riviera along with others were added to the Las Vegas strip. Old mormon bankers brought political and financial legitimacy and operated the business of the hotels while the mob fixed games and began racketeering. One of the more notable casinos, The Sands, opened in 1952, and became a leader in entertainment attraction headlined by France Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr, collectively known as the "Rat Pack"

Nevada and its Economical Growth in Relation to GamblingEdit

Nevada and its Economical Growth in Relation to Gambling Nevada, specifically Las Vegas, is a place of constant growth and economical change. Largely thanks to its gambling culture, starting in the 1970’s the town has continued to boom. “Gambling is the largest employer in the state, the largest taxpayer, and [has] been the major export industry for Nevada’s economy for quite some time.” Republican Governor Bob List, of 1981, influenced the state's legislature to cut back the property tax and raise the sale tax from 3.5% to 5.75%, in attempt to shift the state’s earnings base to the latter. Overall, state property taxes decreased by an average of 50% over the year. There was a general increase of government spending throughout the late 1980s and the early 1990s, driven by gold and silver mining, heavy defense spending, and the continued boom in Las Vegas. The down turn of the economy proved only temporary and in 1994 and especially 1995, Las Vegas overcame with record profits and lead the state out of its crisis.

For more than two decades, the general income in Nevada has been among the supreme of the United States and, during this same period, the population expansion rate had exceeded all other states by a wide margin. The major contribution to the industry's rapid growth was the growing population of California and other western states, and the willingness of society’s attitudes towards the activity of gambling.

Among many, one result of the casino industry’s immense growth and profit potential in partnership with its finite financial alternatives was to encourage less orthodox means of raising investments. After essentially ignoring the gambling industry, Nevada began to tax the commerce in 1945, placing jurisdiction under the Nevada Tax Commission. In the next few years, after exposure to widespread infiltration of gambling, the Gaming Control Division within the Tax Commission in 1955 was established in Nevada. The industry of gambling did not become a dominant tourist attraction until after World War II, from then until the later 1970s, the expansion was at a rapid pace aiding to the growth within Las Vegas and most of Nevada. “Through legislation designed to attract tourists, Nevada parlayed its advantageous location next to populous California and its accessibility by rail from many locations into making the state a tourist attraction.”

On one hand, gambling can have significant potential to generate winnings from its clientele while earning profits for casino operators. On the other hand, the gambling industry has never been granted the status of a fully legitimate commercial activity; for numerous reasons, such as gambling has been classified as a pariah industry, one that poses risks to the social and political aspects of Nevada. Nonetheless, in the 1960s at Stateline on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, gambling began to grown in this third area of Nevada. Large-scale casinos in Nevada continue to consistently outperform middle-sized and small casinos in their geological markets, allowing the government officials to completely support the growth of this industry.

Becoming the icon for modern popular culture, Las Vegas is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United State. Powered by the vibrant economy, Las Vegas Valley has seen their population catapult from 273,000 in 1970 to roughly 1.2 million by 1998. Unlike most western states, Nevada has no inheritance-estate-gift taxes, franchise tax as well as personal or corporate income tax. Doubled with inexpensive housing, cheap fuel costs, and the convenient location, Nevada’s development has evolved. “Between 1990 and 2010, Las Vegas arguably became the largest tourist destination in America.” A grand total of 10 million visitors in the early 1980s, Las Vegas saw an increase of 19 million bringing their yearly total to 29 million tourists in 1996.

Unfortunately, In the year 2000 Las Vegas experiences a delay from the exploding dot-com bubble, over-expansions, and the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. Alongside the Great Recession, southern Nevada ruined the aspired belief that gambling was recession-proof or at least recession-resilient. It is critical to acknowledge the damaged the Great Recession caused to major American Gaming companies, many continue to be heavily in debt and struggle to recover into the 21st century. Nevada, especially Las Vegas, pushed through this doubtful time and “[by] 2006, there were roughly $30 billion in capital investment projects underway on the Las Vegas strip or elsewhere in the Las Vegas Valley.” In 2007, the Las Vegas metro area became the fastest growing district of the United States. Las Vegas was at its peak in the year of 2007 with the gambling revenue over 14% of the previous year, to an all-time high of $6.7 billion.

Over the years, the tourism in northern Nevada had a high degree of seasonality, guided by climate, but overcame to some degree by an array of well-marketed high profile events. Unfortunately, one out of six jobs had vanished in 2010 when Nevada’s seemingly endless boom had come to an abrupt end. “The region's economic output shrank by approximately 10% in real terms from 2007 to 2010.” Exploiting the need for a new approach to economic development, The Great Recession brought not only devastation but also a sense of urgency. “In order for Nevada to be successful, southern Nevada needed to quickly build a regional economic development organization to partner with a newly formed Governor’s office of Economic Development while leading the southern charge for business attraction, retention, expansion and community development.” This new ‘Economy Theory’ went on to prove beneficial, Southern Nevada established the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (otherwise known as LVGEA) and it quickly emerged as one of the most prominent economic development organizations in the western United States.


Las Vegas and Organized Crime After the Second World WarEdit

The Mob’s interest in Nevada came from the state’s population, size and prosperity at the time. Prior to the influence of organized crime, Nevada was small with a desolate population, making it easy for organized crime to be conducted and minimizing the chance of legal interference. Many of the mob men travelled from large cities to take the advantage of the undeveloped land, including: Chicago, Detroit, New York and Cleveland. Men such as Tony Cornero (Southern California), Guy McAfee (Los Angeles), and Phillip Marlow recognized the potential that Nevada held due to cheap land and legalized gambling. Although gambling and organized crime go hand in hand, Las Vegas and Nevada created opportunity for casual business men as well. Burt Cohen, a renowned Las Vegas hotel executive spent a great deal of his life shaping the gaming industry in Vegas. Cohen grew up in the hotel business, and he saw the opportunity for hotels and tourism in the rising state of gambling. Cohen would contribute to the uprising of major attraction in the city, such as Caesars Palace and Circus Circus.

Although Las Vegas and its gaming culture would provide the state of Nevada with economic prosperity, the gambling, drug and alcohol abuse and mob influence would also have negative effects on the population. The opening and thriving of the great metropolis’ large casinos have almost completely diminished the opportunity for small businesses to be successful in the state. The Pro-casino lobby in Las Vegas would argue that casinos create jobs and opportunities for the people of the state, however most would argue the opposite. Former officials have ensured that the driving source for casinos is definitely not for the betterment of society. Regardless of its context, Las Vegas has the highest per capita tourism rate in comparison to all of the other states in the nation. Nevada’s economic success has motivated other regions to attract tourists using gambling, especially Atlantic City, Las Vegas’ largest gambling competition.

In the early 1940’s, banks shunned casinos for moral reasons. This made room for organized crime syndicates to push illegal money through the casino system and finance the Las Vegas metropolis. This fashion of financing was typical in the state of Nevada from the 1940s into the 70s, however organized crime has become conducted in a different manner today. Although the activity of criminals is less obvious and upfront, the city of Las Vegas is still heavily influenced by the mob and its interests. Las Vegas is considered a pinnacle in post-modern urbanism, and some believe that they can truly make it in the state of Nevada. With one good hand, one roll of the dice or one spin of the wheel ones future could change quite drastically, which is why the area attracts so many tourists from so many different places. Local investors, producers and financial figureheads have invested a tremendous amount of capital in the state, and the city of Las Vegas has been a centre piece in promotional literature for decades.

 
Howard Hughes

Corporate Ownership, 1969-presentEdit

By 1969 mob domination of the gaming industry in began to decline, however it would not completely end until the 1980s, due to the Corporate Gaming Act, 1969. The hope of the act by the Nevada Legislature was to attract public corporations to invest in, and further develop, gaming in Las Vegas and Nevada by allowing greater control over operations. Howard Hughes was the first of these new corporate owners to invest into the gaming industry in Las Vegas. Huges helped supplant mob ownership by buying up several hotel-casinos in the city beginning in the late 60s. After casually buying the Desert Inn for 13.2 million dollars, Hughes was determined to mold Vegas into his financial empire. Following the purchase of his new home, he bought his legitimacy and was given the green light by Nevada Gaming Control Board to pursue his vision. He had a knack for creating revolutionary concepts and understood the mindset of a gambling millionaire, which he used to his advantage while expanding his empire. He continued by buying various other hotels on the strip, weeding out mob bosses and organized crime in the process. However mob operations would not cease in Las Vegas until a federal and state operation was conducted to clean up the Stardust hotel-casino. Following the end of mafia ownership, Las Vegas became to expand in all direction in addition to beyond just the gaming industry. The Mirage opened as an upscale and high-stakes casino in the early 1990s. It would prove to be a successful model to be emulated by several new mega-properties including Excalibur, Luxor, MGM, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, etc. In order to draw tourists beyond simple gambling, a small number of resorts attempted to capture a family destination atmosphere, however these would ultimately fail within a few years, but goes to show the level of risk the resort companies are willing to take to secure new guests and expand beyond their roots. MGM and Luxor both underwent remodelling nearing $250 million to replace the unused arcades, rides, and other family attractions.The industry next turned to the world of food and shopping to attract new tourists to Las Vegas to generate increasingly more profit. Prior to the complete corporate dominated era of Las Vegas, food in the city consisted of mostly cheap buffets, however Las Vegas transformed itself into providing world-class dining to supplement the gaming industry. By the early 2000s, Las Vegas hosts 4 of 17 five restaurants in the US and contains the highest concentration of luxury shopping in the world, with the notable example of Caesar’s Forum.