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Unfolding Las Vegas

Las Vegas became a town on May 5, 1905, when the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad organized a land auction.

The Railroad told the thousands of Californians present that a train system would run through Las Vegas and throughout the Southwest. Over 1,200 lots were sold for $1,500.00 apiece.

Wagonloads of settlers came to town and erected hotels, a post office, a bank, and a number of gambling establishments. The railroad came through and the town slowly grew.

In 1911, Las Vegas was chartered as a city. However, the year before, the Nevada State Legislature made gambling illegal; that law stated in place for twenty years.

After the stock market crash in 1929, the Great Depression settled in, and in 1931, the citizens of Nevada finally voted legalized gambling back in. The need for electric power generated the construction of the Boulder Dam, later called Hoover Dam.

The workers who built the dam sought diversion in the gambling halls of Las Vegas, bringing that city its first significant prosperity.

Las Vegas' present-day prominence was brought about by a gangster named Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel. He originally came west to become an actor but had no talent. He eventually became a director of Mob racing wire activities in California and part of his job necessitated his traveling to Vegas frequently.

By that time, Las Vegas boasted some fairly open opulent gambling casinos and Bugsy became interested in the little oasis in the desert.

He decided to build a casino to rival all others and persuaded some of his Mob associates to invest with him in this venture. He hired the Del Webb Construction Company to build the casino he planned to name the Flamingo.

The original projected cost for the casino was 1.5 million dollars. But Bugsy wanted only the best materials and these were hard to come by in post-World War II America. He bought the materials on the black market and the casino ended up costing over six million dollars.

In December 1946, Bugsy opened the Flamingo before it was completed and during the first two weeks of operation, the casino lost over $100,000. He closed it and his Mob investors tried to fire him, but he insisted that the Flamingo would make a profit.

He reopened in march of 1947; the first few weeks brought more losses, but finally, the casino began to show a substantial profit.

His investors were still warring with him, however; in June of 1947, while he was staying in his girlfriend Virginia Hill's Beverly Hills home, Bugsy was shot to death.

Bugsy was followed by others of his kind who saw the enormous potential in this city of legalized gambling casinos that is just a few hours from Los Angeles. The Mob entrepreneurs were able to engage in gambling operations openly.

They brought their families with them and settled down to become part of the community.

Because they wanted nothing to jeopardize their gambling paradise, they brought a semblance of law and order with them.

They forced thieves and muggers out of town and Mob killings were forbidden. They built churches and contributed heavily to community projects.