The "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign

The “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign has a deeper meaning (Image: cdn3.bigcommerce.com)

Las Vegas is considered by many to be the spiritual home of gambling. It is one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations but there remain things that are not common knowledge despite its global status. Here are five facts that you might not know about Sin City.

FedEx Founder Gambled Company’s Last $5,000 in Las Vegas

FedEx Corporation is nowadays considered to be one of the leading US-based courier companies that has business interests across the world. However, very few people know just how close the FedEx name came to extinction before it had even earned its reputation.

Three years after FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith established FedEx (operating as Federal Express at the time), the company ran into financial trouble. Rapidly increasing fuel costs meant that the courier firm was losing more than $1 million every month. All attempts to secure additional funding through investment and loans failed to materialize and the situation reached a point where Smith’s company only had $5,000 in the bank.

 Smith initially tried to secure investment from General Dynamics but the business pitch was not successful. Smith entered the weekend after the meeting knowing that unless something was done, Federal Express operations would be unable to continue on the Monday morning leaving the company on the brink of liquidation.

In an act of final desperation, Smith got a plane from the company’s headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee to Las Vegas, Nevada and used the remaining $5,000 in the company account to fund his blackjack games at casinos across the city. By the time Monday morning arrived, Federal Express inexplicably had $32,000 in the bank allowing the company to continue operating. The reprieve that the additional funds won through blackjack has given the company was all that was needed. Days after the Las Vegas trip, Smith managed to secure an $11 million investment and by 1976 the company made its first multi-million dollar profit. The rest, as they say, is history.

FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W Smith

FedEx founder Frederick W Smith gambled the future of the company in Las Vegas (Image: www.meridian.org)

The Largest Jackpot Win in Las Vegas is $39.7 million

In a city where the number of slot machines equals out to one slot machine for every eight residents, it is no surprise that winning jackpots is the name of the game. Tourists flock to Las Vegas to try and win life-changing amounts of money in an instant. Of course, they come to see the sights, enjoy some entertainment, and soak up the atmosphere as well but every gambler in Las Vegas dreams of the big win.

On 21st March, 2003, that dream came true for one gambler. A 25 year old software engineer on a trip from Los Angeles, California was fortunate enough to trigger the progressive jackpot on the Megabucks slot machine at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. Having bet $100 on the slot machine, the player was sent into a state of euphoria when they hit the jackpot to win a staggering $39.7 million. It was the largest jackpot win ever recorded in Las Vegas and is a record that stands to this day.

The White Circles on the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign are Actually Silver Dollars

If there is one iconic image that is synonymous with Las Vegas, it is the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign that tourists see as they first enter the city boundaries and make their way to the mesmerizing Las Vegas Strip. The now famous sign was first designed by artist Betty Willis back in 1959. Sadly, Willis passed away on 19th April, 2015 at 91 years of age but she left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.

One fact that very few people know is the level of detail Willis went into with the sign. Despite it being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, it has often been criticised as being just a tacky neon sign that has needed replacing. However, it is more than just a random design that Willis drew up. The white circles that surround the word “Welcome” on the sign might initially appear as simply white circles but if you look closer you will see that each circle is actually a silver dollar coin. This was a decision Willis made to represent Las Vegas as a city of fortune but also a city that was located within Nevada, affectionately known as the Silver State. Amazingly, nobody currently owns the copyright for the sign.

There is a Black Book for People Banned from Las Vegas

It was long considered to be an urban myth. A black book that contained the names of people who had been banned from gambling venues across Las Vegas and, in the wider area, Nevada as a whole. It was a romantic idea that added drama to gangster fiction related to the city and many thought it was the stuff of legend.

In reality, the black book does exist. In fact, it’s not even black. It is actually a silver book. Its function remains the same. Any individuals that are banned from premises across Las Vegas and Nevada are added to the book. The book is then accessible to every gambling premises in the state to ensure the individuals are unable to visit any of the premises.

The reality of the book is almost as fantastic as the legend itself. It is only 36 pages long but it contains the names of some of the most influential and notorious gangsters linked to criminal organizations, including Marshall Caifano, Francis Citro, and Wilford Pulawa, that have been added ever since the book’s creation back in 1960.

Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip has a secret (Image: http://travelchannel.sndimg.com)

The Las Vegas Strip Isn’t in Las Vegas

Perhaps the most ironic fact on this list is the last one. The first image many people conjure up in their minds when the words “Las Vegas” are uttered is the lights and wonder of the Las Vegas Strip. A number of the city’s top casinos are located on The Strip including MGM Grand, Bellagio, and Harrah’s.

Funnily enough, this main 6.8km long attraction for gamblers and tourists is not actually situated within the Las Vegas boundaries. The boundaries extend as far out as Sahara Avenue to the south but The Strip actually stretches through two zones, Paradise and Winchester, that are not within these bounds. These lie within the Clark County boundaries. That means that some casinos on The Strip are up to 1 mile outside the boundaries of Las Vegas.