Las Vegas (läs vāˈgəs) [key], city (1990 pop. 258,295), seat of Clark co., S Nev.; inc. 1911. It is the largest city in Nevada and the center of one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the United States. Revenue from hotels (including many of the world's largest), gambling, entertainment, theme parks, resorts, and other tourist-oriented industries forms the backbone of the economy. The nightclubs, casinos, and championship boxing matches are world famous, and entertainment enterprises have led to an increasing array of music, sports, gambling, and amusement centers up and down the main "strip," as the city succeeded in the 1990s in redefining itself as a family resort, complete with monorail (opened 2004). Its 1,149-ft (350-m) Stratosphere Tower is the country's tallest observation tower. The city is also the commercial hub of a ranching and mining area and has diverse manufacturing, including gaming equipment.
In the 19th cent. Las Vegas was a watering place for travelers bound for southern California. In 1855–57 the Mormons maintained a fort there, and in 1864, Fort Baker was built by the U.S. army. In 1867 Las Vegas was detached from the Arizona Territory and joined to Nevada. Its main growth began with the completion of a railroad in 1905.
A campus of the Univ. of Nevada is there, and Las Vegas also has a number of museums, including ones devoted to natural history, old neon signs from the strip, the entertainer Liberace, and atomic testing. Nellis Air Force Base lies to the north of the city, and Hoover Dam is nearby.
See B. Vincent, Las Vegas behind the Tables (1988); E. P. Moehring, Resort City in the Sunbelt: Las Vegas, 1930–1970 (1989); N. Pileggi, Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas (1995); S. Denton and R. Morris, The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947–2000 (2001); H. Rothman, Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-first Century (2002).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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