From the Rat Pack to Corporate Las Vegas

Probably the best-known and most glamorous phase of Las Vegas’ history was during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the era of the ‘Rat Pack’. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr performed in the famous Copa Room at the Sands casino and hotel.

They were often joined onstage by fellow entertainers Shecky Greene, Lewis Prima and Buddy Hackett. The Rat Pack became iconic figures in Vegas both on stage and at the tables where they would regularly gamble huge sums of money.

Now that the mob had been chased out of Las Vegas respectable money began to pour in to take the place of the dirty money. Companies such as The Hilton and The Holiday Inn began to invest large sums of money into Las Vegas. However, it was not until the 1980’s that the authorities could honestly claim that the casino’s of Las Vegas were completely mob free.

If the old Las Vegas belongs to the mob and the Rat Pack, the new Las Vegas belongs to one man, Steve Wynn. In November 1989, 47-year-old businessman Steve Wynn opened up his 3,000 room, $650 million pleasure palace in the very heart of the Strip. The Mirage stunned the old guard of the gambling business in Las Vegas. The sheer scale and elegance of the casino was a world away from all the older casinos, it was the first new casino to be opened in over 16 years. The Mirage was phenomenally successful drawing in a completely new crowd to the city and taking over $1 million in profit daily. This success galvanised the industry and changed the look and feel of Las Vegas forever.

The tired old casinos with their buffets and dreary looking lounges were torn down and replaced by sophisticated resorts with first-rate restaurants, high budget shows and plush lounges. These resorts were five star palaces to all things gambling, pleasure domes containing art galaries, spas and luxury shopping arcades. This exciting new breed of casino attracted a very different type of tourist, families and young groups were soon flocking to a city that they would dare not have entered just a few decades ago. Las Vegas was now respectable and accessible.

In the words of the city’s promoters Las Vegas was now “a world-class destination resort for the entire family.”

There were soon plenty of casino’s to choose from, The Excalibur, a family friendly medieval themed casino-resort opened in June 1990, the great pyramid of Luxor opened in 1993, as did Treasure Island and the 5,005 room MGM Grand, the second largest hotel in the world at the time of building. The Hard Rock Hotel brought a touch of rock glamour to the Strip in 1995; the 1,257 foot Stratosphere Tower with its dare devil roller coaster atop, the opulent Monte Carlo and the pop-art style New York casino all opened between April 1996 and January 1997.

A year later the Bellagio which, costing $1.6 billion was the most expensive hotel ever built at the time. Another notable casino opening around the same time was the luxury Italian style resort, The Venetian with over 7,000 rooms costing $1.5 billion. The most recent addition to the Las Vegas skyline is the namesake of the man who sparked the modern Vegas revolution, The Wynn Las Vegas. The Wynn is by far the most expensive casino resort built to date and cost a staggering $2.7 million! The Wynn has a spotless reputation for being the most luxurious hotel with the most advanced casino floor. As we speak, The Venetian is having an extension built. When it is complete, the hotel will contain over 14,000 luxury suites!

Today, Las Vegas has over 130,000 hotel rooms and in 2004, over 37 million people visited the city and between them spent over $33 billion. The city celebrated its centenary in 2005 and looks set to grow and grow well into the next 100 years.

Some people visit Las Vegas once just to experience Sin City for themselves and some people visit year after year. Many more people come to tie the knot at one of the many ‘quickie’ marriage chapels and all of them hope to realise the Las Vegas dream of winning big.