Why Are There So Many Casinos In Las Vegas?

There are 144 casinos in Las Vegas and the city’s enthusiasm for gambling has been growing for over a century.


Las Vegas is the casino capital of the world. A bleached strip of desert land in the old Wild West, Vegas only exists because of the money poured into the city to fund gambling entertainment over the past century.

These days Vegas is a multi-entertainment metropolis that markets itself as the perfect family vacation destination. But it wasn’t always like this. Over the years this small backend town has grown into the behemoth it is today – and that’s largely thanks to Las Vegas gambling laws and free-market economics.

Without Vegas casinos, the city would be nothing — and they’ve got plenty of them! In fact, there is one casino per 4,400 people in this city. With casinos have come hotels, restaurants, adult entertainment venues, and gigantic luxury resorts.

In 2021 there were 144 casinos operating in the city, with tourists spending an estimated $2.2bn a year. Here’s how it all came about:

History of Las Vegas

Back before the turn of the last century, Las Vegas was nothing more than an outpost for travelers seeking to reach Los Angeles. In fact, for part of its history, Vegas was located within the Mexico border.

Chicago was the original hotbed of gambling and even in the early 1900s, Vegas had barely made a scratch on the scorched Nevada desert. That all changed in the 1930s when the Boulder Dam – renamed the Hoover Dam – was built. The population of Vegas boomed to 25,000 people as mostly young men arrived in the area to work on the dam’s construction.

With the men came illegal gambling halls, theatres, brothels, and restaurants. In order to cash in on this increased economic activity, Nevada legalized real money casinos to bring in money after the Great Depression. It was a rare state in the US to open its doors to gambling and steadily the town became a city as more people moved to the area.

Yet while Vegas was growing in the ‘40s and ‘50s, it wasn’t a pleasant place to be. The mafia controlled much of the economic landscape, including the casino halls. It wasn’t until the 1960s that local government began clearing Vegas of its vices.

the flamingo casino in las vegas

The Flamingo, a Vegas casino.

Casino Resorts Save Las Vegas

By the time the crime lords’ grip on Vegas had loosened, the city was still considered a backwater town. But what set it apart from many other cities was its casinos, which were concentrated around Fremont Street in downtown Vegas.

That was until the 1980s when big banks on Wall Street realized the principles of Regan-era free-market economics and began pumping money into Nevada’s super-resort projects. Within a decade, the bonds and loans provided by the banks had given hotel developers the freedom and confidence to build ultra-modern resorts centered around the Strip, with each hotel boasting a mega-casino.

While some states still hadn’t legalized gambling, Vegas was expanding and attracting millions of tourists per year. And the resorts provided wider entertainment – movie theatres, live music, fine dining, and kids’ activities. Suddenly Vegas wasn’t a gambling hole but a family vacation destination.

Access to Wall Street money instigated the Vegas resorts and casino boom of the 1990s that has persisted to this day – bar an economic decline between 2007 and 2010 during the global financial crisis.

There are now 61 Las Vegas casinos on the Strip, such as the iconic MGM Grand, the Circus Circus, and Caesars Palace. The biggest of the Vegas hotels is the Wynn/Encore, with 1,900 gaming machines, 167 table games, and 4,700 hotel rooms. Not bad for a patch of scrubland out in the Wild West.

Read our online casino reviews for the best casinos online in Vegas — or anywhere in the world.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller is a veteran casino writer with decades of experience writing online casino reviews and game guides. His betting strategy articles, and gambling news updates have been a fixture in the industry since 2004.

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