Despite gambling being legalized in Nevada in 1931, race and sports betting still walked the shady line between semi-legal and illegal. Race betting was the purview of illegal bookies or secret turf clubs. Some of these clubs – like the Saratoga and the Derby clubs – were highly lucrative.
With little to no competition and Las Vegas attracting gambling lovers everywhere, it was only a matter of time before race betting became a big draw. In 1951, the federal government imposed a 10% tax on the state’s legal tax books that at once regulated the industry and drove some operators out of business. Pictured here is one of the many thriving betting shops in Vegas for horse racing.
While America was reeling, the Hotel Apache managed to create a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors in its heyday. The hotel was the first to introduce air-conditioned lobbies and curtain-like air barriers at the entrance. It had beautiful stained-glass windows too.
The hotel was a pioneer in Vegas since it was the only one to feature an elevator, deck its casino out in full carpeting, and popularize poker as a mainstream casino game. Benny Binion later took the reins, turning the place into a haven for Hollywood stars like Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, and Lucille Ball.
Aerial View of Las Vegas
This aerial shot was taken back when Las Vegas was calmer than chaos when one would mostly see potential instead of pandemonium. From this aerial view, we can see what Las Vegas was about to become. You might even feel that the city is gaining steam and that the resort industry is a lucrative town feature.
Nevada became the first state to legalize gambling in 1931. Believe it or not, it was only one Las Vegas club downtown that initially received a temporary license for gambling. Just the one. Soon, a stretch of road (Highway 91) began getting attention as a gambling haven. The road was a few miles long which people had nicknamed “The Strip.”
College of Gambling
Have you ever wondered how casino dealers get so good at what they do? Experience and training, of course. But during the 50s, Las Vegas took it even further and introduced a dice gambling class for dealers at the College of Gambling. This college taught dealers everything they needed to know: how to deal at tables and how to deal with gamblers of all kinds and there were many.
The high-stakes gamblers and thrill seekers, the first-timers and enthusiastic onlookers. As the city experienced a major boom in visitors, there were soon more jobs than people! Many flocked to Nevada and Las Vegas for a chance to work in a booming city and rub shoulders with the rich and famous.
El Rancho Hotel
El Rancho – built by Thomas Hull - was the first resort on the Las Vegas Strip, which would become the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue. Right from the start, Hull visualized building a ranch-style property. It would have a showroom, a casino, rooms people could drive up to, sprawling lawns, and a swimming pool.
Hull knew that people driving from Southern California would be exhausted and hot after being on the road. “El Rancho” aimed to be the oasis in the desert everyone needed. The hotel’s windmill signage would soon become its trademark – its neon lights visible for miles. On June 17, 1960, a fire destroyed El Rancho's main building, and El Rancho laid vacant for years.