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History of Gaming in Nevada

1864 to 1931

Gaming was a part of Nevada's culture even before the state's inception. Many prospectors traveled to the area to search for gold in the Sierra Nevada and brought their games of chance with them. However, in the early 1860s, President Lincoln appointed Nevada Territory Governor James Nye, who held a vigilant stand against gambling, encouraging the territorial legislature to ban games of chance.

In 1861, the territorial legislature instituted stiff penalties for running and participating in any game of chance. The measure was not very successful, though, and when Nevada became a state in 1864, the first legislature attempted to legalize and regulate gambling instead, only to fail. As a compromise, penalties for gambling were dramatically reduced with operators being punished mildly and players not at all.

In 1869, the Nevada State Legislature finally succeeded in decriminalizing certain forms of gambling, and Nevada's gaming laws witnessed few changes until 1909 when the Progressive Movement finally succeeded in passing legislation banning nearly all games of chance in the Silver State. During the next few years, gaming laws relaxed, initially allowing specific social games and "nickel-in-the-slot machines" paying out drinks, cigars and sums of less than $2. By 1919, all cities and counties throughout the state were licensing card rooms that permitted social games such as bridge and whist, and during the 1920s, Reno became the state's gambling capital, with both legal card rooms and clubs offering illegal games.

As the country entered the Great Depression, Nevada's conflicted feelings about gambling were finally reconciled. In 1931, freshman Nevada State Assemblyman Phil Tobin introduced Assembly Bill 98, which allowed for wide-open gambling. On March 19, 1931, Assembly Bill 98 was signed into law by Governor Fred Balzar, making a number of games legal, and thus taking small card games and illegal betting out of back rooms and side alleys. The legislation allowed the rise of the gaming industry and the regulated modern casino we know and enjoy today.

1864

  • Nevada becomes the 36th state (October 31)

1869

  • Nevada decriminalizes certain forms of gambling
  • Storey County (Virginia City) becomes the most populous county in Nevada

1909

  • Nevada criminalizes gaming and the operation of all games of chance, effective the following year

1930

  • Nevada's total population: 89,168

1931

  • Wide-open gaming is legalized in Nevada by the Nevada State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Fred Balzar; the bill is introduced by State Assemblyman Phil Tobin of Humboldt County (March 19)
  • Bank Club begins legal gaming in Reno (March 20)
  • The first gaming license in Las Vegas is awarded to Mayme Stocker for the Northern Club on Fremont Street
  • Red Rooster Nightclub opens (located where The Mirage is today), later known as Gracie Hayes, Hi Ho Club, San Souci (1955) and Castaways (1963)
  • Riverside Hotel on Virginia Street in Reno receives gaming license
  • Construction begins on Hoover Dam

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

1930s

In the 1930s, gaming continued to grow throughout the state. The first licensees to take advantage of the legalization of wide-open gaming were existing bingo parlors, card rooms and small casinos already operating games of chance.

The first four licensees (Boulder Club, Las Vegas Club, Exchange Club and Northern Club) were located in Downtown Las Vegas, with many to follow in Reno and outlying areas. Although Nevada casino gaming would not grow much before the end of World War II, many new operators began to flock to Nevada to set up new gaming operations, including William Fisk Harrah, founder of Harrah's Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment).

1932

  • Apache Hotel, Las Vegas’ first luxury hotel (air-conditioned lobby and elevator), opens on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas

1935

  • Hoover Dam is dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt
  • Raymond "Pappy" Smith opens Reno's Harold's Club, the first casino to stress customer service and to advertise itself widely with "Harold's Club or Bust"

1937

  • William (Bill) Fisk Harrah opens his first bingo parlor in Reno, Nevada

1938

  • Bill Harrah opens the Plaza Tango in Reno

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

1940s

By 1940, gaming operations throughout the state were beginning to take hold. One of the most active areas was the emerging Las Vegas Strip.

Many credit Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel with creating the first Las Vegas Strip resort when he developed the Fabulous Flamingo. However, five years earlier (1941) Thomas Hull opened the 57-acre El Rancho Las Vegas on San Francisco Street and the Los Angeles Highway. Today, these roads are known as Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. R.E. Griffith and William Moore soon upstaged the El Rancho in 1942 with The Last Frontier, later known as The New Frontier.

The Flamingo was originally conceived by successful Los Angeles nightclub owner and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, R.W. "Billy" Wilkerson. Due to reported debts, Wilkerson was forced to sell, and it was Siegel who opened the Flamingo on December 26, 1946, and inherited the title as the man who "invented" Las Vegas. Even though it was not the first resort on the Las Vegas Strip, there is little debate that it helped raise the bar for what a Nevada hotel and casino could be.

In 1946, casino development increased substantially with the construction of numerous properties, including the famed Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas, Harrah's Club and Nevada Club in Reno and the Wagon Wheel Casino and Tahoe-Biltmore Hotel & Casino near Lake Tahoe. The Mapes in Reno followed in 1947, and The Thunderbird on the Las Vegas Strip in 1948.

For years, gaming licensing was handled at the local and county levels. Taxes were determined by the number of games or machines in operation. However, in 1945, licensing authority shifted to the state level and Nevada enacted a new licensing program that, in addition to the per-game fee, collected fees based on a percentage of gross-gaming win. The first Nevada state tax on gaming was levied in 1946, securing 1 percent of gross earnings. Revenue totaled $670,000 statewide.

1940

  • Nevada's total population: 109,295

1941

  • El Rancho Vegas opens, becoming the first hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip
  • El Cortez opens in Downtown Las Vegas

1942

  • Last Frontier Hotel (New Frontier, Frontier) opens on the Las Vegas Strip

1945

  • Nevada Legislature passes law shifting authority to grant gaming licenses from the local and county level to the State Tax Commission
  • Tax of 1 percent of gross earnings is imposed on gaming licensees, becoming the first state tax on gambling

1946

  • Flamingo Hotel opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Gaming tax goes into effect
  • Wagon Wheel Casino at South Lake Tahoe (Douglas County) opens
  • Nevada Club Casino opens in Reno
  • Tahoe-Biltmore Hotel & Casino constructed at Incline
  • Golden Nugget Casino opens in Downtown Las Vegas
  • Harrah’s Club (later Harrah’s Hotel & Casino) opens in Reno

1947

  • Gaming taxes total $670,000
  • Nevada Legislature passes increase in state gambling tax to 2 percent of gross winnings
  • The Mapes opens in Reno

1948

  • The Thunderbird opens on the Las Vegas Strip

1949

  • Nevada Legislature passes bill allowing the State Tax Commission to investigate the background of persons applying for a gaming license

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

1950s

By 1950, the state's population was just shy of 160,000 people. Casino and hotel construction flourished throughout the state, with more than 13 major casino openings.

Besides the tremendous growth of the industry, the 1950s introduced what would become the example for all other gaming jurisdictions to follow when regulating gaming. By 1952, commercial gambling had eclipsed mining and agriculture to become Nevada's largest revenue-producing industry. As Nevada's economy became more and more dependent upon gaming as an economic engine, the fear of federal gaming prohibition and negative public sentiment grew, prompting the Nevada State Legislature to create the Gaming Control Board in 1955. A division of the Nevada Tax Commission, the board's primary purpose was to oversee the licensing and operation of Nevada casinos, all the while eliminating the unsavory elements that threatened the industry's existing and future integrity. In 1959, the legislature passed the Gaming Control Act, which established the Nevada Gaming Commission. The commission acted upon the recommendations of the Gaming Control Board and was the final arbiter of all gaming licensing matters. In addition, the gaming regulators created the now famous Black Book. The Black Book is a listing of nefarious characters and cheaters who are not allowed in casinos, and a direct result of Nevada's commitment to further protect the industry's integrity.

Nevada's gaming regulatory system has been an integral part of Nevada's success and has become the standard upon which all other national and international gaming regulatory agencies are based.

1950

  • Nevada's total population: 159,341
  • Desert Inn opens on the Las Vegas Strip

1951

  • Congress passes 10 percent tax on sports bets
  • Horseshoe Club opens in Downtown Las Vegas

1952

  • Sahara Hotel & Casino opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Sands Hotel & Casino opens on the Las Vegas Strip

1954

  • Harveys Wagon Wheel Hotel is built at Lake Tahoe
  • Showboat Hotel & Casino opens on Boulder Highway, becoming the first true neighborhood casino

1955

  • Gaming Control Board created within Nevada Tax Commission structure
  • Dunes opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Riviera opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Moulin Rouge opens in West Las Vegas
  • Nugget Casino opens in Sparks (Washoe); purchased by John Ascuaga in 1960
  • Nevada Legislature increases state gambling tax again, on sliding or "progressive scale," from 3 to 5.5 percent of gross winnings

1956

  • Hacienda opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Fremont Hotel & Casino opens in Downtown Las Vegas

1957

  • Tropicana opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Mint Hotel & Casino opens in Downtown Las Vegas

1958

  • Stardust Resort & Casino opens on the Las Vegas Strip

1959

  • The Nevada Gaming Commission is created by the Nevada State Legislature
  • Nevada's "Black Book" is approved to keep casinos "clean"

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

1960s

By 1960, total gross gaming revenue reached more than $200 million annually and the state's population reached over 280,000 people. Gaming regulators began to enforce the Black Book, and casino operators continued to develop and expand projects throughout the state.

Harveys, Caesars Palace, Aladdin, Circus Circus, Four Queens and Landmark were only a few of the properties that opened their doors in the 1960s. The decade ended with Kirk Kerkorian opening the world's largest hotel and casino, the International (later the Las Vegas Hilton). Elvis Presley became the hotel's headliner, which established him as an eternal Las Vegas icon.

One of the most important events in Nevada gaming history was the arrival of famed aviator, filmmaker and entrepreneur billionaire Howard Hughes. Upon arriving in Las Vegas, Hughes bought the Desert Inn, Frontier, Sands, Castaways, Landmark, Silver Slipper, North Las Vegas Airport, Alamo Airways, Harold's Club in Reno and nearly all available undeveloped land in the Las Vegas valley.

Hughes finally stopped buying hotels and casinos when, in 1968, he tried to buy the Stardust. The United States Justice Department issued a monopoly lawsuit against Hughes, because he already had control of one-third of the revenue earned by all the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and had become Nevada's largest employer. Nevada's political leadership embraced Hughes as his money, reputation and visibility provided further legitimacy to the gaming industry.

In 1967, the Nevada State Legislature decided to allow public companies to own and operate gaming facilities without licensing each shareholder, which paved the way for the casino industry to become what it is today. The 1960s also saw the establishment of a new city on the border between Arizona and Nevada. Don Laughlin, former owner of the 101 Club in Las Vegas, flew over the tri-state area in his private plane in 1964 and liked what he saw. In 1965, he bought a boarded-up motel and 6.5 acres of riverfront property for $250,000. In less than two years the bar and motel, now called the Riverside Resort, was offering all-you-can-eat chicken dinners for 98 cents, play on 12 slot machines and two live gaming tables and accommodations in four of the motel's eight rooms (the Laughlin family occupied the other four rooms).

A little-known fact is that the city of Laughlin got its name when a U.S. Postal Service inspector insisted Don Laughlin give it a name, any name, in order to receive mail. Laughlin recommended the name Riverside and Casino, but the postal inspector used Laughlin instead.

1960

  • Nevada's total population: 284,920
  • Nevada's fiscal year gross gaming revenue is $200,500,000
  • Nevada's "Black Book" is enforced

1962

  • Sam Boyd purchases Eldorado Casino in Henderson
  • Bill Harrah constructs a 400-room hotel tower in Reno

1963

  • Harveys Resort Hotel & Casino opens at South Lake Tahoe

1965

  • Gaming Industry Association is formed in Reno
  • Sahara Tahoe Hotel & Casino opens at the south shore of Lake Tahoe

1966

  • Howard Hughes arrives Thanksgiving night to live at Desert Inn
  • Caesars Palace opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Original Aladdin opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Four Queens Hotel & Casino construction begins in Downtown Las Vegas
  • Don Laughlin purchases and opens Riverside Resort

1967

  • Nevada Legislature passes bill allowing public corporations to own gambling facilities without licensing each stockholder; law modified by Legislature in 1969
  • Howard Hughes buys the Desert Inn, starting his yearlong casino/hotel buying spree
  • Bobcat Club opens in Laughlin

1968

  • Circus Circus Casino opens on the Las Vegas Strip (Circus Circus Hotel & Casino opens in 1972)
  • U.S. Postal inspector officially names Laughlin, Nevada
  • Monte Carlo (Crystal Palace) opens in Laughlin

1969

  • International (Las Vegas Hilton) opens on Paradise Road, becoming the world's first "mega-resort"; Elvis Presley is the hotel's entertainment headliner
  • Landmark opens on Paradise Road

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

1970s

By 1970, tourism had become Nevada's largest industry. In 1975, gaming revenues topped $1 billion annually and nearly 50 percent of Nevada's budget was supported by gaming-based tax revenue.

With the 1970s came significant growth in hotel-casino development throughout the state. Popular casinos including MGM Grand (now Bally's), Imperial Palace, Barbary Coast and Eldorado (Reno) opened their doors.

In 1972, Harrah's Entertainment became the first gaming company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Nevada State Legislature established specific criteria for inclusion in The Black Book and lowered the sports betting tax, allowing for the proliferation of legalized Nevada-based sports books.

By the end of the decade, Nevada had become the fastest growing state in the nation and increased gaming revenues by 150 percent.

1970

  • Nevada's total population: 493,223
  • Tourism becomes Nevada's largest industry
  • King's Castle (now Hyatt Tahoe) Hotel & Casino opens at Incline, North Lake Tahoe

1971

  • Union Plaza Hotel & Casino opens in Downtown Las Vegas

1972

  • Official "Black Book" criteria established

1973

  • MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (now Bally's Las Vegas) opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Eldorado Hotel & Casino opens in Reno
  • Harrah's becomes the first gaming company listed on the New York Stock Exchange

1975

  • Nevada gaming revenue tops $1 billion; gaming-related taxes pays 50 percent of state budget with 30 percent in related taxes (liquor, cigarettes, gas)
  • Nevada State Legislature lowers sports betting tax, allowing the proliferation of casino-based sports books/betting
  • Union Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas opens state’s first legal casino-based sports book
  • Sundowner Hotel & Casino opens in Reno
  • California Hotel & Casino and Nevada Hotel & Casino are built in Downtown Las Vegas

1976

  • Stardust Hotel & Casino opens legendary sports book
  • Bingo Palace opens west of the Las Vegas Strip, marking the beginnings of the Station Casinos empire
  • Fitzgerald’s Hotel & Casino opens in Reno

1977

  • Gaming revenues in Clark County top $1 billion
  • Internal Revenue Service begins to require hotel-casinos to report winnings of gamblers to federal authorities

1978

  • Park Tahoe (now Caesars Tahoe) Hotel & Casino opens at South Shore, Lake Tahoe

1979

  • Vegas World opens on Las Vegas Blvd.
  • Imperial Palace opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Barbary Coast opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • IGT introduces first "draw poker" machine

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

1980s

In the 1980s, Nevada became the fastest growing U.S. state, as the population grew by more than 3,300 people a month on average and reached 1.2 million by 1990. The early part of the decade was a period of concern for both Reno and Las Vegas, because Atlantic City had legalized gaming in the late 1970s and ended the legal monopoly Nevada had for more than 45 years. In addition, the MGM Grand fire in Las Vegas and the Harveys Hotel and Casino bombing in Lake Tahoe provided a terrible rash of bad publicity for Nevada gaming operators.

However, by the end of the decade, a Las Vegas icon took what was considered the state's biggest gamble by building a $750 million "mega-resort" and ushered in a new era in Las Vegas gaming. In November 1989, Golden Nugget owner Steve Wynn opened The Mirage to much fanfare, attracting attention from around the globe. The Mirage was considered the most elegant property in Las Vegas. Its exterior centerpiece was a manmade volcano with waterfalls facing the Strip entrance to the hotel. The theme carried into the casino and hotel with strategically placed indoor plantings, a white tiger habitat and a 20,000-gallon-aquarium, creating the illusion of a South Pacific paradise. While other hotels' primary focus was the casino, The Mirage's focus was providing a luxury resort experience. The opening of The Mirage sparked what was to be one of the largest regional construction and population explosions the United States had ever seen.

In 1988, the United States Congress formally recognized but limited the right of Native Americans to conduct gaming operations with the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Northern Nevada would ultimately feel the effects of reservation gaming upon California's acceptance of Native American gaming establishments in 2000.

1980

  • Nevada's total population: 810,215
  • Nevada becomes the fastest growing state
  • Nevada's gaming revenue is nearly $2.5 billion per year
  • MGM Grand Hotel fire results in stricter fire regulations, making Nevada resorts among the safest in the world

1981

  • The Internal Revenue Service institutes stricter regulations for the reporting of gaming dealers' tips

1982

  • Edgewater Casino opens in Laughlin

1983

  • High Sierra Hotel & Casino opens at Stateline, South Lake Tahoe

1986

  • IGT introduces Megabucks

1987

  • Colorado Belle and bridge opens in Laughlin

1988

  • Harrah's Laughlin opens in Laughlin

1989

  • The Mirage opens on the Las Vegas Strip

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

1990s

After The Mirage opened in 1989, Southern Nevada witnessed a decade-long boom, experiencing construction and population growth not seen in the United States since the Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s.

More than 15 themed casino-hotels opened their doors throughout the Las Vegas valley, and there was a dramatic diversification of entertainment options, including theme parks (e.g. Circus Circus' Adventure Dome and the Las Vegas Hilton's Star Trek: The Experience) and stage production shows (e.g. Cirque Du Soleil and FX). Various properties exchanged hands, including The Frontier Hotel, Sands, Vegas World (Stratosphere), Holiday Casino (Harrah's) and Aladdin. New themed hotels such as Luxor, New York-New York, MGM Grand and Bellagio celebrated their grand openings, each with tremendous attention and excitement.

In Reno, the Silver Legacy Hotel & Casino opened on Virginia Street in 1995. However, with the passage of California's Proposition 5 in 1998, casino-style gambling on Native American reservations was given an open door to compete with northern Nevada casinos. As Nevada entered the 21st century, nearly every state had gambling in one form or another and the increased access to Native American casino gaming was dramatically changing the way Nevada approached its tourism economy.

1990

  • Nevada's total population: 1,236,130
  • 12 publicly owned corporations own 21 major casinos, producing 50 percent of total Nevada gaming revenue
  • Excalibur opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Flamingo Hilton Laughlin opens in Laughlin

1992

  • Harrah's Entertainment converts the Holiday Casino on the Las Vegas Strip to Harrah's Casino, marking the company's first appearance on the Las Vegas Strip

1993

  • Nevada's gaming revenue exceeds $6 billion per year
  • Gaming is approved in other states and on Indian reservations
  • Luxor Las Vegas opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Treasure Island Hotel opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • MGM Grand Hotel and Theme Park opens on the Las Vegas Strip; the 171,500-square-foot casino and 5,005 rooms make it the largest hotel and largest hotel-casino in the world

1994

  • Boulder Station opens on Boulder Highway in Las Vegas

1995

  • World's first Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opens on Paradise Road
  • Silver Legacy opens on Virginia Street in Reno
  • Texas Station Hotel & Casino opens on Rancho Blvd., Las Vegas

1996

  • Nevada's gaming revenue totals $7.45 billion
  • Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Stratosphere Hotel & Casino (formerly known as Vegas World) and Stratosphere Tower open on Las Vegas Blvd.; Stratosphere Tower becomes the tallest free-standing observation tower in the U.S. and the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River

1997

  • Sunset Station Hotel & Casino opens in Henderson

1998

  • Bellagio opens on the Las Vegas Strip (former Dunes location)

1999

  • Paris Las Vegas opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • The Venetian opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Mandalay Bay opens on the Las Vegas Strip (former Hacienda location)

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

2000s

By 2000, Nevada's population was more than 2 million, with nearly 7,000 people moving to Las Vegas each month. The resort industry was running strong up until the fateful day of September 11, 2001. Once considered recession proof, Nevada's resort industry showed its vulnerability and the state's budget suffered dramatically as a result of the tragedy. Many resort employees were laid off as U.S. travel became a trickle of what it was just weeks before. Hotel rooms were empty, entire areas of casinos were quiet and Nevada faced one of its greatest challenges: how to inspire travel back to the state.

Through the efforts of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Nevada Commission on Tourism and Reno/Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, Nevada steadily regained its position as the nation's favorite playground. Unfortunately, the damage was done. The state faced a budgetary crisis due to the reduced resort-related tax revenues, and it was not until 2005 that the industry regained its footing.

Las Vegas' popular "Only Vegas" campaign, which used the now famous "What happens here, stays here™" tagline, found a new market of young travelers seeking a complete resort experience. Ultra lounges, mega-nightclubs and world-class restaurants began opening at a fevered pace, and Las Vegas continued to be the city where the rich and famous came to play.

MGM MIRAGE acquired Mandalay Resort Group in 2005, making it the largest resort operator in Nevada. Soon after, Harrah's Entertainment acquired Caesars Entertainment, making Harrah's the largest gaming company in the world. A number of properties opened during the 2000s, including, but not limited to, Wynn Las Vegas, Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa, Red Rock Resort and Spa, THEhotel, Palms Casino Resort, Trump International, Encore, The Palazzo, M Resort, and ARIA (CityCenter).

In northern Nevada, Reno experienced a significant population boom throughout the decade. The city began to embrace the area's plentiful natural surroundings and rebranded itself as a gaming and outdoor/adventure destination.

2000

  • Nevada’s total population: 2,023,378
  • Nevada's annual gaming revenue exceeds $9.5 billion
  • MGM Grand Inc. announces the purchase of Mirage Resorts Inc., creating the largest corporate buyout in gaming history (to date)

2001

  • Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa and Casino opens in Henderson; the hotel and casino is a joint venture between Station Casinos and Greenspun Corporation
  • Harrah’s Entertainment acquires Harveys Casino Resorts

2003

  • Mandalay Resort group opens THEhotel
  • Non-gaming resort revenue surpasses gaming revenue

2004

  • Nevada's gaming revenue exceeds $10 billion per year
  • Harrah’s Entertainment purchases Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corporation, which includes Downtown Las Vegas’ Binion’s Horseshoe and the World Series of Poker
  • Boyd Gaming Corporation merges with Coast Resorts
  • MGM MIRAGE announces plans to buy Mandalay Resort Group
  • Harrah's Entertainment reaches a definitive agreement to purchase Caesars Entertainment
  • Harrah’s Entertainment plays host for the first time to the World Series of Poker; $41 million in prize money is awarded, which is more than double the amount in 2003

2005

  • Nevada's total population: 2,418,460
  • Wynn Las Vegas opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • MGM MIRAGE announces Project CityCenter, an “urban metropolis”; its projected cost would rise to more than $7 billion, making it the largest privately funded construction project in U.S. history
  • Golden Nugget is bought by Houston-based Landry's Restaurants
  • MGM MIRAGE's acquisition of Mandalay Resorts and Harrah's Entertainment's acquisition of Caesars Entertainment both become final

2006

  • Nevada's annual gaming revenue exceeds $12.6 billion
  • Private equity firms Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group offer to purchase Harrah's Entertainment for more than $17 billion
  • Frank Fertitta III, Lorenzo Fertitta and Colony Capital LLC, operating as "Fertitta Colony Partners," make an offer to purchase all existing shares of Station Casinos at $82 per share and take the company private
  • Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa opens in Summerlin, Las Vegas

2007

  • The Stardust Hotel & Casino is imploded for future development
  • The Aladdin Casino Resort transforms into Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and Desert Passage Shops become Miracle Mile Shops
  • Harrah’s Entertainment announces $1 billion expansion of Caesars Palace, including a new Octavius Tower
  • Silverton Casino Lodge begins $130 million expansion

2008

  • The Palazzo celebrates its grand opening
  • Golden Nugget completes $60 million expansion, including adding convention space and a new nightclub
  • Aliante Station celebrates grand opening on November 11, 2008
  • Wynn Resorts opens Encore Las Vegas in December 2008

2009

  • M Resort Spa & Casino opens on March 1, 2009
  • Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas introduces the 490-room Paradise Tower on July 31, 2009
  • Golden Nugget’s New Rush Tower opens on November 20, 2009
  • MGM MIRAGE's CityCenter debuts with Vdara Hotel & Spa, Mandarin Oriental and ARIA Resort & Casino in December 2009

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.

Photos: Provided by Las Vegas News Bureau

2010s

The Nevada gaming and tourism industries continued to face challenges and new opportunities with the turn of the next decade.

Some of the challenges were associated with the fallout from the Great Recession as consumer spending was tempered and gaming expansions moved forward in other parts of the world. While consumers were more cautious with their discretionary dollars, the total volume of visitors helped to support Nevada's gaming industry.

With the new decade came emerging technologies and increased interest in interactive gaming. On February 21, 2013, the Nevada State Legislature approved Assembly Bill No. 114, allowing the state to enter into pacts with other states to offer Internet-based poker, among other items. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval promptly signed the measure into law, placing Nevada at the forefront of online gaming nationally. Consistently held out as the gold standard of regulation and synonymous with world-class tourism, southern Nevada is now well positioned to lead the nation's gaming industry into the digital frontier.

New investments were completed or announced, some of which were new resort properties, while others were designed to upgrade existing assets. Caesars Entertainment completed Project Linq, programmed with an observation wheel, and rebranded its Imperial Palace property to The LINQ Hotel & Casino. In addition, the company closed Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon and replaced it with The Cromwell. MGM Resorts International broke ground on a new $375-million arena near its New York-New York Hotel & Casino and Monte Carlo to be completed in April 2016. In addition, Genting Group acquired an 87-acre property located on the Las Vegas Strip and announced plans for a multi-billion dollar Resorts World Las Vegas, while the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) moved forward on its Global Business District, which includes an expansion of the Convention Center.

The $375-million MGM Resorts/AEG Arena broke ground in May 2014 to be completed in April 2016.

2010

  • MGM Mirage rebrands; becomes MGM Resorts International
  • Harrah's Entertainment rebrands and becomes Caesars Entertainment
  • Cosmopolitan Hotel opens its doors on December 15, 2010

2011

  • Caesars Entertainment breaks ground on Project Linq

2012

  • The Imperial Palace is rebranded into The Quad Resort & Casino

2013

  • Caesars Entertainment closes Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon for remodeling into The Cromwell
  • Genting Group acquires 87-acre site for development of proposed Resorts World Las Vegas
  • MGM Resorts International announces plans for 20,000-plus-seat arena on the Las Vegas Strip

2014

  • Caesars Entertainment completes The LINQ, including the 550-foot High Roller Wheel on March 31, 2014
  • MGM Resorts International and AEG break ground on their $375-million arena
  • The Cromwell (rebrand of Bill's Gamblin' Hall) opens on May 21, 2014
  • Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino (rebrand of LVH) opens on July 1, 2014
  • SLS Las Vegas (rebrand of Sahara Hotel) opens on August 23, 2014
  • Delano Las Vegas (rebrand of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay) opens its doors on September 1, 2014
  • The Quad Resort & Casino is rebranded and reopened as The LINQ Hotel & Casino on October 30, 2014
  • The Las Vegas area reports a record 41.1 million visitors

2015

  • Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe (rebrand of Horizon Casino Resort) celebrates its grand opening on January 28, 2015
  • Bally's Grand Bazaar Shops open to the public in February 2015
  • MGM Resorts International constructs an outdoor entertainment venue to host Rock in Rio and other events
  • LVCVA announces plans to purchase the Riviera Hotel & Casino and demolish it for the expansion of the Convention Center

Sources: Nevada Historical Society; Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Michael Green (Community College of Southern Nevada); David Schwartz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research); "Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling" by David Schwartz; Gotham Books, 2006; and Nevada Magazine, March 2006.