Las Vegas - A brief history of Sin City: Part 3

Here it is for you, Part 3 of our Las Vegas History blog feature. Last time we left Vegas in the 70s as new technology was being introduced in the world of gambling and Sin City was on the verge of moving toward the "megaresort":

In 1976, when casino-style gaming was legalized in Atlantic City, N.J., it became apparent to Las Vegas casino owners that Nevada no longer could claim exclusive rights to gambling casinos. It perhaps hastened the beginning of another era for the Strip - the megaresort.

Hotel-casinos began the race to become full-blown destination resorts for travelers, vacationers, gamblers, conventioneers and all members of the family.

Circus Circus Enterprises Inc., in October 1968 already had opened a circus-tent-shaped casino complete with midway games and rides for youngsters. A hotel was added in 1972. Owners of the resort then developed a $90 million water theme park called Grand Slam Canyon on five acres adjoining the Circus Circus Hotel-Casino.

The 3,049-room Mirage Hotel-Casino opened in the fall of 1989 at a construction cost of $630 million. The property featured a white tiger habitat, a dolphin pool, an elaborate swimming pool and waterfall and a man-made volcano that belches fire and water.


Mirage owner Steve Wynn constructed the 2,900-room Treasure Island adjacent to The Mirage at a cost of $430 million. This property featured Buccaneer Bay where a full scale pirate ship and British frigate engage in a battle of cannon fire. In the end, the pirates blast the British and the frigate slowly sinks beneath the churning waves.

With Treasure Island, which opened Oct. 27, 1993, and the Mirage side by side on the Las Vegas Strip, Wynn had nearly 6,000 rooms on a 100-acre site. Additionally, Wynn purchased the 164-acre Dunes Hotel and Country Club on the Las Vegas Strip for $75 million in 1992. He spent $1 million renovating the country club on the golf course. In October 1993, the flamboyant casino owner staged a $1.5 million spectacular in which the north tower of the Dunes Hotel was imploded and the famous Dunes Hotel sign destroyed amid a shower of fireworks never before equaled west of the Mississippi. More than 200,000 people crowded onto the Strip to witness the spectacular.

The Excalibur, a 4,000-room colossus, opened June 19, 1990. The imaginative medieval “castle” was developed by Circus Circus Enterprises Inc. for between $260 and $290 million. Some floors were devoted solely to non-gambling entertainment for children and the young at heart. Court jesters perform in public areas.

William Bennett, founder of Circus Circus Enterprises Inc., constructed the 2,526-room, pyramid-shaped Luxor a quarter mile south of the Excalibur. The Luxor, a modern marvel at the time which cost $375 million dollars to build, is linked to the Excalibur by monorail. The Luxor featured a full-scale reproduction of King Tut’s Tomb. One of the world’s most powerful beams of light shines from the top of the pyramid as well. It is visible to planes 250 miles away in Los Angeles. The atrium in the middle of the pyramid could hold nine Boeing 747s stacked one atop of another.

One of the most ambitious resort projects in the history of Las Vegas is located at the intersection of the Las Vegas Strip and Tropicana Avenue. It is the MGM Grand - which at the time of construction was the largest resort hotel in the world and the dream of pioneer Las Vegas hotel developer and multimillionaire entrepreneur Kirk Kerkorian.

The $1 billion, 112-acre resort hotel, casino and theme park highlighted the MGM Hollywood image and when opened in 1993 featured a 33-acre theme park as the center piece, a 5,005-room hotel, 171,500-square-foot casino, 12 theme restaurants, a 1,700-seat production showroom, a 630-seat production theater, three swimming pools, five tennis courts, a child care center and a 215,000-square-foot, 15,200-seat special events arena for concerts, sporting events and exhibitions.

The construction boom continued throughout the 90s and into the 21st Century, with projects including the Rio, Bellagio, Stratosphere, Monte Carlo, Mandalay Bay, The Venetian, Paris, Aladdin, Palms, Palazzo, Wynn, Encore, CityCenter, Cosmopolitan and of course our beloved M Resort in 2009. As the 90s passed, Vegas transitioned from building themed properties and turned instead to modern elegance.


Along with the boom came a huge increase in jobs and in turn the population and need for housing exploded. By 2000, Las Vegas was the largest city founded in the 20th century, and by 2006 it was the 28th largest city in the US with a population of 552,000 in the city, and nearly 1.8 million in Clark County. The explosive growth resulted in rapid development of commercial and residential areas throughout the Las Vegas Valley. The strong boom in the resort business led to many new condominium developments all across the strip and downtown area. Suburban sprawl development of single-family homes continued across the valley building the areas of Henderson, North Las Vegas, Centennial Hills and Summerlin.

Despite the success, the home mortgage crisis and the late 2000s recession had a drastic impact on the economic success of Vegas. The explosive growth conflicted with the land holdings of Bureau of Land Management which restricted growth thus raising the price of homes and tightening supply of new homes. As a result, high prices led to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac subprime mortgage lending that were unstable and risky, not to mention the speculation and extra loan borrowing influenced by the low interest rates of the Federal Reserve. Soon after, properties were foreclosed, new home construction was stalled, and construction projects were either canceled, postponed, or continued with financial troubles. Even worse, the global financial situation had a negative effect on gaming and tourism revenue, thus causing many gaming companies to report net losses.

The city, however is weathering this unprecedented downturn. Though recovery is slow and will most likely continue to be, we've seen that Las Vegas is a city unlike any other in the world, a city able to reinvent itself time and time again. The Neon City, America's Playground, Sin City. Las Vegas is an undeniable and amazing part of our culture and a destination for people around the world.*

*Information and some text from:, and