Named after the availability of water in the valley - LasVegas means ‘the meadows’ in Spanish - the small desert town in Nevada became a small city when construction of the Boulder (now Hoover) Dam began in the early 1930’s. With gambling legalized in 1931, Las Vegas started its rise to world fame as the gambling capital of the world. Gambling became organized and regulated. The city issued the first gambling license in 1931 to the Northern Club,
and soon other casinos were licensed on Fremont Street like the Las Vegas Club and the Apache Hotel.
Fremont Street developed its nickname as Glitter Gulch from all of the lights that were powered by electricity from Hoover Dam. This huge dam and its reservoir, Lake Mead, turned into tourist attractions on their own and the need for additional higher class hotels became clear. On April 3, 1941, El Rancho Vegas opened its doors. It was the first resort on what would become the Las Vegas Strip. A few more resorts were built on and around Fremont Street but it wouldn’t take long before the Strip publicly demonstrated the influence of organized crime on Las Vegas when gangster Bugsy Siegel, with help from fellow mobster Meyer Lansky, built the infamous Flamingo there in 1946.
Many people, including some involved with organized crime, saw the potential that gambling offered in Las Vegas. From 1952 to 1957, they built the Sahara, the Sands, the New Frontier, the Royal Nevada, The Showboat, The Riviera, The Fremont, Binion’s Horseshoe (which was the Apache Hotel), and finally The Tropicana.