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The men who built Vegas

Compared to London, Paris and Rome, Las Vegas is a relatively young city. Nevertheless, it has become the gaming and entertainment capital of the world in just a few decades.

Also known as "Sin City", its reputation for solace, opulence and extravagance is known worldwide. Of course, smaller casinos and overwhelming megaresorts have not come out of nowhere.

It took a president, a dam and a few men with a big vision to make it all happen. Take a walk with us through the fascinating story of Vegas and the men who built it.

Vegas comes from nuts

In 1930, President Herbert Hoover approved what was later known as the Hoover Dam. Construction began in 1931 and an influx of workers increased the population of Las Vegas from 5,000 to 25,000.

Local businessmen and mob bosses jumped at the chance to pay off the huge, mostly male construction crew. Illegal casinos and theatres sprang up around the city.

Instead of destroying Las Vegas's fledgling entertainment and casino business industry, the Nevada state legislature in 1931 gave the green light and issued the first licence for a Northern Club casino. The Apache Hotel and the Las Vegas Club soon followed.

Development slowed during World War II, but picked up between 1952 and 1957. Well-funded mobsters built the Sands, the Sahara, the Royal Nevada, the New Frontier, the Fremont, the Riviera, the Binion's Horseshoe and the Tropicana.

By 1954, Las Vegas received more than 8 million visitors, who spent an average of US$200 million annually. The city's stages also began to host major stars of the era such as Frank Sinatra, Liberace and Bing Crosby.

Sin City continued to expand over the next two decades until the 1980s brought a dramatic change of pace. It was in 1989 that the Mirage megaresort and Casino Gold in Las Vegas were built.

Benjamin Bugsy Siegel

One of the most famous mobsters of the 20th century, Benjamin Bugsy Siegel is also one of the men who built Vegas. After nightclub and future gambling software owner Billy Wilkerson spent his investors' money on poker, Bugsy took over Wilkerson's project.

The Flamingo Casino was built by the magical eye of a mobster who later came to the messy city of Beverly Hills.

Thomas Tommy Hull

A few drinks at the Apache Hotel and a chat with Las Vegas businessman Jim Cashman are all convincing guests at the Thomas Tommy Hull Hotel to open a Sin City casino.

Tommy opened El Rancho Las Vegas in 1941, and it's been the talk of the town since day one. It had over 70 slots and blackjack, craps, and roulette in 110 hotel rooms.

Howard Hughes

Toolmaker, pilot and film producer Howard Hughes spent a month in the Desert Inn building in 1966. When a manager asked Howard to leave for a month after guests booked a New Year's Eve apartment, the wealthy businessman simply bought the hotel.

He spent around USD 300 million on Las Vegas properties, including several casinos.

Steve Wynn

After inheriting and running his family's bingo rooms in Maryland, Steve Wynn set his sights on Vegas. "In 1989, he bought the Bellagio and the Mirage, and instead of tearing them down, Wynn turned them into the city's first megaresorts.

Wynn also provided the funding needed to create the iconic Treasure Island resort, which later became the first permanent base for the famous Cirque du Soleil.

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