On March 19th, 1931, the State of Nevada legalized casino gambling. The decision to legalize Nevada casinos was based on some interesting reasoning. In 1903, the formerly prosperous Comstock Lode's silver had run dry. Since the state was faced with a huge territory but small population, Nevada exempted many companies from taxation. Then, in 1931, Nevada passed a six-week divorce statute. Along with visitors to the newly completed Hoover Dam, this new law increased the amount of tourists to the area. The legalization of Nevada casinos replaced the lost tax base and created a way for Nevada to benefit from the influx of tourists.
The first casino gaming license was issued to a woman named Mayme Stocker. She proceeded to open the Northern Club on Fremont Street in what is today downtown Las Vegas. In the years that followed, hundreds of Nevada casinos would open throughout the entire state. Because of the legalization of Nevada casinos, Las Vegas is now the gaming capitol of the United States. In fact, after visiting a typical Las Vegas hotel casino, many people come to the opinion that Las Vegas is the gaming capitol of the world.
Nevada Casino Hotels - Harrahs in Las Vegas
While the Las Vegas hotel casino is considered the norm in modern Las Vegas, the early Nevada casinos were limited to small taverns and saloons. This did not change until 1941, when El Rancho Vegas, the first Las Vegas hotel casino was opened on the Strip. The Last Frontier and the Desert Inn would soon follow in El Rancho’s footsteps.
Perhaps the most monumental event in the history of Nevada casinos happened in 1946, when Bugsy Siegel, financed by the infamous organized-crime kingpin Meyer Lansky, opened the Flamingo Casino. While this was great for Nevada’s economy, the state became concerned about organized crime. While a number of laws helped remedy the situation, perhaps the greatest “clean up” act happened in 1966, when billionaire Howard Hughes bought out most of the Nevada casinos that were owned by the mob.
The history of Reno casinos developed within the same time frame as the Las Vegas gambling scene. In 1937, Bill Harrah and Harald Smith also became aware that they can make big money off the influx of Nevada tourists. They started their business in 1937 with a small bingo parlor in Reno. Within a few years, Harrah would open up a number of Reno casinos. Of course, other developers of Reno casinos would follow in Harrah’s footsteps. Today, most of the Reno casinos are located in the downtown area along or in close proximity to Virginia Street.
Top image: Dave_B_ (flickr)