Las Vegas

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The largest city in Nevada. First settled (for about nine years) in 1854 by Mormon farmers, Las Vegas already had been named by Spaniards in the Antonio Armijo party who watered there while heading north and west along the Old Spanish Trail from Texas. At that time, various low areas of the Las Vegas Valley were replete with artesian springs which created extensive green areas in contrast to the surrounding desert, hence the name Las Vegas, Spanish for "The Meadows." The Mormons abandoned the site in 1857, and the U.S. Army built Fort Baker there in 1864. Owing to the springs, Las Vegas was a water stop for first wagon trains and later railroads, on the trail between Los Angeles, California and points east such as Albuquerque, New Mexico. Though incorporated in 1911, and with gambling legalized in 1931, Las Vegas started its rise to world fame in 1941, when developers began building large hotels incorporating gambling casinos in the middle of the parched desert. Several such early enterprises are widely reputed to have been backed by money from large crime syndicates based the in the eastern U.S.

Las Vegas is sometimes called "Sin City" due to the popularity of legalized gambling locally, availability of alcoholic beverages any time of the day and night, various forms and degrees of adult entertainment, and legalized prostitution in nearby counties (Nevada law prohibits prostitution in Las Vegas' county, Clark, due to its population size). The nickname favored by local government and promoters of tourism is "The Entertainment Capital of the World." In the last fifteen years or so, many huge, extravagant casinos have been built, and the emphasis has turned from gambling and other "adult" pursuits to entertainment for both adults and children. In addition, concerted effort has been put forth by city fathers to diversify their local economy by attracting light manufacturing, textiles, banking, and other commercial interests. The lack of any state individual or corporate income tax, and very simple incorporation requirements has fostered the success of this effort. Having been late to develop an urban core of any substantial size, Las vegas has retained very affordable real estate prices in comparison to nearby urban centers. Consequently, the city has recently enjoyed an enormous boom both in population and in tourism. At this writing, the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area is the fastest growing population center in the United States.