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Bugsy Siegel was not the first visionary in Las Vegas. Good movie, but not entirely accurate.

Las Vegas was founded by the railroads in 1905 because it was a place to stop for water between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Gambling had been legal in one form or another in Nevada since 1869 shortly after it became a state. In 1931, Nevada fully legalized gambling, the first state in the Union to do so. The building of the Hoover Dam assured that Las Vegas would be a growing city. Bugsy (or should I say Ben) Siegel build the Flamingo Hotel in 1946, but it was a failure.

Bill Harrah, on the other hand, was the true visionary. Harrah started buying small gambling bars in 1937. In 1946, he built the Harrah Club in Reno. He was successful and he lived to build casinos across the State as well as a world famous automobile and slot machine collection.

The true pioneer of gambling in Nevada was Harold Smith, who first opened a gaming parlor called Harold's Club in 1935. Harold's Club grew slowly in the 1930's, but boomed in the 1940's when Nevada's military installations expanded during WWII. Harold's Club introduced women dealers to casinos in the 1930's and is generally credited for making casinos a place where families could come.

The true growth of Las Vegas occurred in the mid-seventies when Nevada allowed corporation to own casinos. Previously, only individuals could own casinos. Holiday Inn bought Harrah's and other corporations poured tons of money into Las Vegas. Now some of the hottest stocks on the market are the companies that own Las Vegas casinos.

Back to Bugsy, the movie. It was great to see a recreation of how the Flamingo casino looked when in opened in 1946. There were rows of beautiful Mills Hightop slot machines, all brand new and shinny. (I wonder what antique dealer got the order to restore all those High Tops for the movie.)


Copyright: 2009 Ken Durham, GameRoomAntiques





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Ken Durham
3000 Galloway Ridge, C-306
Pittsboro NC 27312
For Orders Only: 202-213-1585 (10am - 9pm East Coast Time)
All others, please email: durham@GameRoomAntiques.com