What were the odds? A city sprouts in the desert and becomes a global capital of gambling and entertainment. Fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit, the legalization of gambling and the construction of Hoover Dam, Las Vegas grew from a frontier outpost to a resort mecca, built by gamblers, second-chance dreamers and the Mob.
Drinking and gambling have been popular Las Vegas pastimes since the town was created in 1905.
Step up and test your knowledge of early Las Vegas history with our interactive game “Betting on the Future.”
This federal Bureau of Reclamation I.D. tag was used while building Hoover Dam between 1931 and 1936.
Construction work continues atop Boulder (now Hoover) Dam in 1934. Courtesy of Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas.
From left, James Cashman, Loretta Young and Roscoe Turner standing near a car from Cashman Garage and Turner’s Lockheed Vega Air Express. Courtesy of the Cashman Collection, UNLV University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.
Woman in Western-style clothing standing outdoors in Jean, Nevada, next to a sign on a post that reads, "Please don't waste the water, we have to buy it." Courtesy of the Leon Rockwell Collection, UNLV University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.
Geraldine, Billy and Mayme Stocker in front of the Northern Club on Fremont Street during the first Helldorado Day Parade in Las Vegas, 1934. Courtesy of the Harold Stocker Collection, UNLV University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.
Construction workers from Hoover Dam on a truck-mounted drilling rig used to cut the diversion tunnels in Black Canyon. Courtesy of the Virginia "Teddy" Fenton Photograph Collection on the Hoover Dam and Boulder City, Nevada, UNLV University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.
Early Las Vegas businesses, including The Gem, Arizona Club, Gem Lunch Counter and Red Onion Club Saloon. Courtesy of the Helen J. Stewart Collection. UNLV University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.
As gambling took hold in Nevada, small slot machines like this Columbia DeLuxe model became increasingly popular.