Friday, March 19, 2010

Luck Be a Lady

Magnet # 196:  Las Vegas Welcome Sign

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By: Mom

On this day in 1931, the state of Nevada legalized gambling, paving the way for it to become a major source of revenue for the state and draw in millions of gamblers and tourists every year. Unchecked gambling had been going on in the areas surrounding the state's mines for years until a nationwide campaign against the activity prompted the state to outlaw it in 1909. But when their mining and agricultural industries began to decline, the state realized that gambling might be the temporary solution to their problems. Even the most ardent proponents of legalization never expected it to be a permanent change. However, once the casinos began to rise and gambling filled more of Nevada's coffers than any other industry, no serious attempt was ever made to re-outlaw the activity. Sure, there's casinos and whatnot in cities like Reno and Laughlin, but pretty much everyone associates gambling in Nevada with Las Vegas. But the legalization of gambling in the state transformed what was primarily a railroad town that had been getting more residents thanks to the nearby Hoover Dam being built into a thriving urban hotspot eventually dubbed "Sin City." By the 1940's major construction of casinos was underway, mostly because of the mob. They controlled the city until the late 1960s when Howard Hughes and other legitimate businessmen began buying up the hotels and casinos. And when the feds came after the mob, they finally lost control of the city they helped create, but some still claim the mob controls part of Las Vegas nowadays. Thanks to the economic downturn we have been experiencing, Sin City has taken a hit, but if and when the economy recovers, it's sure to as well.

I've never been to Las Vegas, but I would like to go someday. I don't really gamble, but I know there are plenty of places I would still have fun checking out. There are all sorts of all you can eat buffets in the city, but the Bellagio Hotel & Casino is supposed to have the best. They serve all sorts of gourmet dishes made fresh all throughout the day, like beef Wellington, 8 different kinds of pizza, crab legs, and even Kobe beef. Sounds pretty amazing, but I have to wonder how expensive it would be. But it would be a treat, right? I'd also be interested in seeing the Neon Museum, where classic signs from Las Vegas' past go to die - or not. Here, tourists can check out 3 acres of over 150 signs, including iconic ones like Caesar's Palace, the Golden Nugget, the Silver Slipper, and the Stardust, which was the largest sign in the world for a decade. They're currently restoring the La Concha Motel lobby to use it as the visitor's center to the site. And if you'd like to see fully restored signs that light up, check out Fremont Street, where 10 are on display. It's nice to see that part of Las Vegas' unique history is being preserved for everyone to enjoy though these efforts. And, of course, Las Vegas is a perfect spot to shop for souvenirs, like magnets. It's home to Bonanza, which is dubbed the World's Largest Gift Shop, that has all sorts of magnets. Some may dispute it's claim, but at over 40,000 square feet, it's easily the largest souvenir shop in Las Vegas and many consider it to be the best. I'd like to have a chance to decide that for myself. Sin City also has quite a few stores around town that sell only magnets, like the Magnetron. Of course, with that many magnets, it would almost be tough to choose which ones to buy. After all, I only want so many Las Vegas magnets in my collection. But Louise Greenfarb, who I've mentioned on here before, holds the world record for most magnets and lives just outside the city and she says it's a fantastic place to buy lots of magnets. So yes, it would be fun to try that out sometime. Until then, I have this great one my Mom picked up for me while she was out there for business. It actually had a hanger attached to it, but I was able to peel back the magnet and take it off. I'm not certain just what you could really hang from this, but it's now a perfect example of the iconic Las Vegas sign. Maybe someday I'll make it out there and see this sign for myself and take in some of what this wild city had to offer. Sure, gambling has made it all possible, but there is so much more to be had in this Entertainment Capitol of the World.

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