8 Men Who Helped Build Vegas

Las Vegas is a city with a lot of history and it was that very history that has contributed to making the city the stunning destination that it is in the present day.

Across the years a number of individuals have played a key role in helping to turn the city into the place it is now. Here’s a look at 8 of those individuals.

A welcome to Las Vegas sign at the beginning of the strip
Image Credit: westinvegas.com

William Andrews Clark

An image of the banker William Andrews Clark
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Las Vegas was literally put on the map by copper mining mogul William Andrews Clark. The former Montana senator identified it as a stopping point along the Los Angeles to Salt Lake Railroad he was managing way back in 1905.

Clark was one of the richest men in the world at this point and he funded the birth of Vegas as the city it has become.

Clark proceeded to give Vegas a publicity push by offering US farmers the chance to purchase land in and around the city at a price of just $1.25 for every acre.

If you are wondering, yes, Clark County was named after Clark himself.

Howard Hughes

If you have seen the Martin Scorsese-directed Hollywood blockbuster The Aviator, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, then you will be fully aware of a dramatized version of Howard Hughes’ life.

The entrepreneur boasted many talents. He was an aviator, film producer, tool manufacturer, and businessman. His relationship with Las Vegas started on Thanksgiving Day in 1966.

First he booked in to the penthouse suite of the Desert Inn. When Hughes was asked to leave his room to make way for the plethora of New Years Eve guests set to arrive, Hughes took the outrageous step of refusing and then buying the entire hotel.

This was the start of something much bigger. Hughes went on to purchase $300 million worth of real estate within the Las Vegas boundaries and helped to shape Sin City into the fantastic place it is.

An image of the entrepreneur, Howard Hughes
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Thomas Hull

The Las Vegas Strip is a focal point of the city. It is 4.2 miles long and the home of dozens of high-class casinos. In 2016 it generated $6.3 billion in revenue. The whole success of The Strip can be traced back to one man though.

That man is businessman Thomas Hull.

Hull’s car broke down on Highway 91 and it was when he saw the huge number of out-of-state licence plates on cars that he realized what an popular tourist route that stretch of road had become.

In 1941, Hull officially opened up the El Rancho Vegas casino and hotel resort. It was the first ever venue of its kind on The Strip, with 110 suites, four classic casino table games, and more than 70 slot machines.

J. Walter Thompson

A painting of J Walter Thomspon
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Everybody knows that Las Vegas is affectionately called Sin City but where did that name come from? Well, it is all down to PR guru J. Walter Thompson.

Local Las Vegas radio station owner Maxwell Kelch hired Thompson and his marketing firm JWT Advertising to launch a PR campaign aimed at potential tourists and travellers. Thompson coined the phrase Sin City to paint Vegas as this exotic location where anything goes.

It is a name that has stuck and one that has certainly contributed to giving the city the reputation it currently holds.

Bugsy Siegel

This would not be a list covering the history of the most influential men to have ever graced Las Vegas if we didn’t mention Bugsy Siegel. In case you didn’t know, he was arguably, one of the most notorious gangsters of his generation.

Siegel was the man behind the formation of the infamous “Murder Inc.” group who gained their reputation for murdering on behalf of the Genovese family in New York.

He has been credited with establishing the Flamingo after winning ownership of the project from nightclub owner Billy Wilkerson.

It was a case of live by the sword, die by the sword when Siegel was gunned down on 20th June, 1947 outside his girlfriend’s home in Beverley Hills.

Rumours linked the crime to Wilkerson but no arrests were made.

An image of the notorious gangster, Bugsy Siegel
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Kirk Kerkorian

Anybody that is familiar with the casino industry will understand the magnitude of Kerkorian’s involvement in the evolution of Las Vegas. The financier was the mastermind behind projects that built the largest casino resort in the city on three separate occasions.

His first effort came in 1969 when he opened The International Hotel, now known as The Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino. His second project was in 1973 with the MGM Grand Hotel. Finally, his third attempt to make the biggest casino in Las Vegas came in 1993 when he rebuilt the MGM Grand Casino after it was destroyed in a tragic fire that claimed the lives of 85 people. It was the worst disaster in the city’s history but Kerkorian showed the resolute spirit to bring the resort back from the ashes and build it even grander. It remains the single largest hotel in the US.

An image of Kirk Kerkorian, financier of multiple casino resorts in Las Vegas
Image Credit: findagrave.com

Steve Wynn

Casino magnate Wynn is a name synonymous with gambling. He has earned a reputation for helping to take Las Vegas to the next level of growth.

The CEO of Wynn Resorts made the lucrative decision to invest in iconic Vegas casinos as opposed to ripping them down and constructing something from new.

He also opted to respect the history and architecture of the city. His involvement in The Mirage, Treasure Island, and Bellagio has seen him become a darling of the Las Vegas business sector.

It is speculated that the Bellagio was the driving inspiration behind the construction of other casinos such as The Venetian and Mandalay Bay.

Wynn’s name will forever remain etched in the landscape of Las Vegas.

An image of Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts
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Sheldon Adelson

The controversial CEO of Las Vegas Sands has been an outspoken critic of the legalization of online gambling in the US but his influence on the land-based sector cannot be disputed. Adelson has a CV that echoes across the Las Vegas skyline.

In 1988, Adelson purchased the Sands Hotel and Casino in the city. It was a renowned hang out joint for the Rat Pack. After the closure of the Sands, Adelson invested a staggering $1.5 billion to construct The Venetian on the plot where the Sands once stood.

It proved that Adelson was one of a few men who were willing to push Las Vegas into the 21st century. His finances and business acumen has helped turn Vegas into a city for the modern age.