Vice Squad
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Las Vegas at 100

Today Las Vegas is celebrating its centennial. Among the biggest features of its first 100 years was the shift, starting in the 1970s, from a mob-controlled-no-place-for-decent-Americans kind of resort to a family vacation spot:
Some observers attribute this newfound respectability to a general shift in attitudes of a more tolerant American public. Hal Rothman, professor of history at Nevada University and the author of Neon Metropolis, said: "Las Vegas used to be the place your pastor warned you against and your mother shook her finger at you if you mentioned its name, but these days people just go.

"The big story of the last 20 years has been gambling and gaming evolving into tourism and entertainment."

Around 38m visitors came to Las Vegas last year, spending $10bn in the casinos, but increasingly many are seeking out a different cultural experience, such as the flying acrobats of Cirque du Soleil or a Celine Dion concert.
But I would maintain that it wasn't an attitude shift that led to the mainstreaming of Las Vegas. Rather, it was a policy change: the Corporate Gaming Act of the late 1960s, which opened up casino operations to publicly-owned companies. Turns out that the mob, which was crucial when legitimate sources of capital were proscribed, proved no match for Wall Street.

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