History of Gaming in Nevada


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.

  • Nevada's total population: 109,295
  • El Rancho Vegas opens, becoming the first hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip
  • El Cortez opens in Downtown Las Vegas
  • Last Frontier Hotel (New Frontier, Frontier) opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • 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
  • 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
  • Gaming taxes total $670,000
  • Nevada Legislature passes increase in state gambling tax to 2 percent of gross winnings
  • The Mapes opens in Reno
  • The Thunderbird opens on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Nevada Legislature passes bill allowing the State Tax Commission to investigate the background of persons applying for a gaming license