This paper sheds light on the 'land of temptation' known as Las Vegas. While the city has earned fame by being one of the biggest gambling centers in the world, it is important to understand that it has a lot to offer to those visitors whose idea of fun doesn't include squandering money. Las Vegas turned into the fastest growing city of the United States both in terms of economy and population during the mid-1980s, but while the former brought huge investment into the city, the latter led to numerous problems that are commonly associated with a rapidly growing urban center. The paper focuses on all the things that keep Las Vegas in the news.
LAS VEGAS: MORE THAN A GAMBLING HUB
History of Las Vegas:
Not much is known about Las Vegas before 1700s but it is widely believed that civilization existed in this part of the world before Spanish traders discovered the route on their way to Los Angeles. It was Rafael Rivera, a young non-Indian scout, who is considered to be the very first person to have discovered the oasis-like valley of Las Vegas. Las Vegas was the name given to this place because of its lush-green meadows and scenic beauty as Las Vegas stands for 'the Meadows' in Spanish. It was only during the mid-19th century that any attention was paid to this part of the world when the name of this valley appeared for the first time in 1844 travel chronicles of Captain John Fremont.
Mormons were probably the fist missionaries to enter this place and in 1855 they built the 150-square-foot fort to establish the first non-Indian settlement. But their presence in the valley was resented by the Paiute Indians and they repeatedly attacked the fort until Mormons were driven out of the valley in 1857. But Mormons are still given credit for initially starting economic activity in the valley and it was with their effort that agriculture and mining became the two most important occupations of people in Las Vegas.
In 1885, the Land Act was enacted which saw influx of farmers from all over the country and agriculture dominated the economy until 1905 when first railway was built. This railway connected Southern California to Salt Lake City and thus established Vegas as a railroad town. It was precisely the same year that Las Vegas was finally accepted as an important city, thus making it eligible for all modern amenities. The official incorporation however took place in 1911 and it was some twenty years later that the city showed first signs of a wild erratic spirit that is now the trademark of the place. These sings were the result of two important laws, the first legalized gambling in the State of Nevada while the other law made divorce process easier.
LAS VEGAS: WHAT THE CITY HAS TO OFFER
If there is one place in the United States, which is certain to become the symbol of fun and frolic, then it is none other than Las Vegas, the city that turned into a major metropolis in less than 50 years. While other urban centers take centuries to develop and show any sign of economic prosperity, it took Las Vegas only 50 years to make people sit up and take notice of this place. Today the city attract millions of visitors from all over the world but no one would believe that some 60 years back, the place was considered an insignificant railroad town. The city, which is primarily ruled by casino owners, is more than just a gambling haven. There are tens of hundreds of reasons to visit the place or to pay any attention to this small though highly dynamic town.
The city earned its reputation as a gambling town in the fifties and sixties when its ever-sprouting casinos attracted the not-so-decent crowd and it was believed that the city was good for those who wanted some adult fun on the weekends. But all that has changed now, not only has it become a major vacation resort, there are actually some people who would love to call this once-wicked town their home. One thing has remained unchanged though, the city with its Disney-like magic and lure and its almost surreal magnificence aims to attract adult visitors only. Just like Disney would lure the young kids to its magical world, similarly this land of vicious temptations is meant primarily for adults.
Penny Stallings (1998) writes, "Today the town that Bugsy Siegel built and Frank Sinatra sanctified has transformed itself into a luxury resort destination designed to lure everyone from movie and rock stars to millionaires to college kids looking for some action. This is a city on a sophistication mission, building staggeringly elaborate hotels, booking A-list performers, hiring four-star chefs, opening couture boutiques, and carefully nurturing a growing buzz. Some famous faces even call it home, including Andre Agassi and postmodern magicians Penn & Teller. Comedian Jamie Foxx, who defected here from Los Angeles in 1994, says that what he likes about Vegas is "it's a great imitator of all cities -- you can find the whole world in one place."
The city is also experiencing major changes as far as construction and economy are concerned. With the economy booming in early 1990s, it was clear that Las Vegas, the fastest growing city of Nevada could easily afford to accommodate some new casinos and hotels. Hotel owners and casino builders made heavy investment, as almost everyone wanted to capitalize on the new found economic boom. But the city, which attracted some 30.5 million visitors in 1997 (Beiser, 1998), witnessed minor injuries to its tourism industry because of Asian financial crisis and current economic slow down in the United States. Not only the volume of visitors dropped but room occupancy also decreased somewhat. This was when economic experts voiced their concerns regarding the investment that was pouring into the city. Many felt that new projects would not be able to generate as much profits as previously estimated. But this did not affect the decision of some of the biggest casino owners and they went ahead with their plans and this lead to some major changes in the landscape of the city.
It is important to understand that the new projects planned for the city aimed at luring the exclusive and high-end section of the society. It was believed that if the new buildings were adorned tastefully and little reference was made to the cheap thrills that Las Vegas was so famous for, then it would be able to attract the attention of those who mattered. This plan paid off as we saw many known faces visiting the city and thus bringing elegance and grace to the place which we once known as only a gambling center.
Vince Beiser (1998) writes, "Gaming giant Mirage Resorts, Inc. is laying a major bet on Bellagio, reputed to be the most expensive hotel ever built at $2.5 billion...Given the pressures on Las Vegas's tourist market, "It would be naive not to be concerned," allows Alan Feldman, spokesman for Mirage. " But we believe we have built a better mousetrap"... The 3,300-room resort, inspired by an Italian lakeside town, is a bold effort to bring a new standard to a city better known for kitsch. It features a formidable collection of paintings by the likes of Monet, van Gogh, Renoir and Matisse, top-flight restaurants, including Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo, and luxury boutiques such as Chanel and Gucci... Bellagio is targeting the high-end tourist market-but so, to varying degrees, are the other new megaprojects, especially the Venice-themed Venetian."
It was probably the strong unwavering faith of the investors that the city would be able to generate enough profits, that Las Vegas did no suffer as heavily when United States economy began its deflationary spiral. The current state of the economy may have badly affected other parts of the country but Las Vegas is not as badly hit as some expert forecasts had predicated. And the credit for this goes to millions of visitors and many shrewd investors who did not lose their faith in the city's ability to bounce back.
But Las Vegas has not been spared its fair share of problems. One of the major problems of the city is its rapidly growing rate of population. The trend towards faster growth in population began somewhere in mid-80s and by the end of year 1995, the number of Las Vegas inhabitants had increased by a staggering 97.6%. This was a little too much for a city, which was accustomed to only temporary population growth during summer vacations and weekends. Though with new investment and faster construction, the city was able to generate a sizeable number of jobs for the newcomers still Las Vegas is paying a heavy price for turning into a major urban center. It is strange that a place, which usually remains in the news because of its fun-filled resorts…