Since officially becoming a town in 1905, Las Vegas has grown from a dusty desert village into a global tourism destination. Since World War II, the population has boomed and the once desolate area has become one of the world’s premier places to escape and have fun. Let’s take a look at the transformation process.
1940s – Population: 8,422
The 1940s saw the birth of the hotel-casino concept. Gone were the simple, western bunk-houses of the past that featured a simple gambling den in the lobby. El Rancho Vegas, El Cortez and The Flamingo opened throughout the decade complete with new facilities including pools, restaurants coffee shops, gardens and parks.
1950s – Population: 26,624
The 1950s witnessed the transformation of Las Vegas into a tourism destination, as nearly 8 million tourists visited the city each year. In 1956, the 12-story Fremont Hotel became the area’s tallest building, but the Strip continued to take shape. In terms of casinos, the ‘50s ushered in classics such as the Sands, Dunes, Sahara, Stardust and Tropicana.
1960s – Population: 64,405
Ten major hotels open on the Strip and Fremont Street and a host of famous performers create a golden age in the history of Las Vegas. Siegfried and Roy, Wayne Newton and the Rat Pack all got started in Sin City within the decade.
1970s – Population: 125,787
Elvis wrapped up an impressive Las Vegas career in the 1970s, performing his 837th sold-out show in the city in 1976. Though the decade gave Las Vegas its first real competition when Atlantic City legalized gambling, a one-dollar slot machine sensation ensured that Sin City remained atop the North American casino scene.
1980s – Population: 164,674
One of the worst tragedies in Vegas history occurs in 1980 when the MGM Grand catches fire. Eighty-seven people die and 700 more suffer significant injuries. The gambling industry’s growth slowed during the 1980s as new casinos on the east coast give gamblers more options. However, everything changed in 1989 when the Mirage opened its doors, becoming the first major Strip hotel built since the early 1970s.
1990s – Population: 258,295
The most active construction decade in the history of Las Vegas, if not the world. Enormous mega-hotels become the norm on the Strip, and each one features a more outlandish theme. You can thank the ‘90s for the pirates, Egyptian tombs and Venetian gondolas currently populating Sin City’s most famous stretch of road.
2000s – Population: 478,434
Siegfried and Roy’s run of 30,000 shows comes to an end when Roy Horn is mauled by one of the show’s tigers. The 2000s also played host to many of the famous Las Vegas hotel implosions – including the events surrounding El Rancho, Desert Inn, Boardwalk, Bourbon Street, Castaways, New Frontier and Stardust. This paved the way for CityCenter, a concentrated mega-resort that created a new era of luxury.
2010s – Population: 583,756
Thus far, this decade has been defined by the opening of the Cosmopolitan megaresort and the widespread operation of high-end eateries across the city. However, with just under half the decade remaining, there’s plenty of time for another chapter of Sin City history.
Las Vegas has undergone quite the transformation over the years, and it’s shown no signs of slowing down. Where will Sin City be when the 2020s roll around? There’s only one way to find out!