The first casino to be built on the Strip was the El Rancho Vegas, open on April 3, 1941, with 63 rooms. The casino was destroyed in a fire 20 years later. Its success gave birth to a second hotel, the Hotel Last Frontier, in 1942. Well-known figures of organized crime like Bugsy Siegel got interested in the expanding gaming center, which led to the opening of other hotels such as the Flamingo, open in 1946, and the Desert Inn in 1950. The financing of several projects was carried out by the American National Insurance Company.
In 1968, Kirk Kerkorian bought the Flamingo and hired the vice president of the Sahara Hotels, Alex Shoofey, as president. The Flamingo was used to train the future employees of the International Hotel, which was under construction. Open in 1969, the hotel with 1512 rooms started the era of hotel complexes. The International is now called the LVH.
The first MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, owned by Kerkorian, opened in 1973 with 2084 rooms. At that time, it was one of the biggest hotels in the world. The Rossiva Hotel built in Moscow in 1967, for instance, had 3200 rooms. On November 21, 1980, the MGM Grand has undergone the worst fire in a hotel in the history of Las Vegas because of electrical issues, killing 87 people. It was reopened eight months later. In 1986, Kerkorian sold the MGM Grand to Bally Manufacturing, then it was renamed Bally's.
The Wet n' Wild water park opened in 1985 and was located south Hotel Sahara. Il closed in 2004 and was destroyed afterwards.
The opening of the Mirage in 1989 took the Las Vegas experience to another level; smaller hotels and casinos gave way to bigger hotel complexes. These huge facilities offered entertainment and dining, as well as gambling and lodging. The change affected the smaller renowned hotels such as The Dunes, The Sands, the Stardust and the Sahara.
In 1995, after Dean Martin passed away, the lighting of the Strip was subdued in sign of respect for him. The experience was repeated in 1998 to honor Frank Sinatra, recently deceased. In 2005, Clark County gave the name of Dean Martin to a section of the Industrial Road, also in tribute to the famous singer of Pat Rack, actor and comedian from Las Vegas.
Photo: Will Hybrid