Historically, the casinos that were not in Downtown Las Vegas along Fremont Street were restricted to outside of the city limits on Las Vegas Boulevard. In 1959 the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign was constructed exactly 4.5 miles (7.2 km) outside of the city limits. The sign is today about 0.4 miles (0.64 km) south of the southernmost entrance to Mandalay Bay (the southernmost casino).
In the strictest sense, “the Strip” refers only to the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that is roughly between Sahara Avenue and Russell Road, a distance of 4.2 miles (6.8 km). However, the term is often used to refer not only to the road but also to the various casinos and resorts that line the road, and even to properties which are not on the road but in proximity. Certain government agencies, such as the Nevada Gaming Commission, classify properties as “Las Vegas Strip” for reporting purposes, although these definitions can include properties which are 1 mile (1.6 km) or more away from Las Vegas Boulevard (such as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino). Phrases such as Strip Area, Resort Corridor or Resort District are sometimes used to indicate a larger geographical area.
The Nevada Gaming Commission considers the Strip’s northern terminus as the Sahara Casino. At one time, the southern end of the Strip was Tropicana Avenue, but continuing construction has extended this boundary to Russell Road. Mandalay Bay is located just north of Russell Road and is the southernmost resort considered to be on the Strip by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
Because of the number and size of the resorts, the Resort Corridor can be quite wide. Interstate 15 runs roughly parallel and 0.5 to 0.8 mile (0.80 to 1.3 km) to the west of Las Vegas Boulevard for the entire length of the Strip. Paradise Road runs to the east in a similar fashion, and ends at St. Louis Avenue. The eastern side of the Strip is bounded by McCarran International Airport south of Tropicana Avenue. North of this point, the Resort Corridor can be considered to extend as far east as Paradise Road, although some consider Koval Lane as a less inclusive boundary. Interstate 15 is sometimes considered the western edge of the Resort Corridor from Interstate 215 to Spring Mountain Road. North of this point, Industrial Road serves as the western edge.
The Nevada Gaming Commission defines the Strip gaming area as encompassing all resorts located on Las Vegas Boulevard South between Russell Road and Sahara Avenue, as well as several nearby properties not directly located on Las Vegas Boulevard. This includes The Rio, The Palms, and several other smaller resorts west of Las Vegas Boulevard and Interstate 15, but does not include The Orleans one block further west. Properties located east of Las Vegas Boulevard on Paradise Road, such as the Las Vegas Hilton, Terrible’s Casino, Westin Casuarina Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Spa, Hooters Casino Hotel, and the Hard Rock, are also included in this area. The Stratosphere, however, is not included in the Nevada Gaming Commission definition of the Strip since it lies north of Sahara Avenue on Las Vegas Boulevard.
The famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign is located in the median just south of Russell Road, across from the now-defunct Klondike Hotel & Casino; another similar sign is in the median at the north end of the Strip near the intersection of east St. Louis and south Main Streets.
Newer resorts such as South Point and the M Resort are on Las Vegas Boulevard South as distant as 8 miles south of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Marketing for these casinos usually states that they are on southern Las Vegas Boulevard and not “Strip” properties. However this area is frequently referred to as the South Strip.
The Bellagio, Caesars Palace, and part of the Strip
The first casino to be built on Highway 91 was the Pair-o-Dice Club in 1931, but the first on what is currently the Strip was the El Rancho Vegas, opening on April 3, 1941, with 63 rooms. That casino stood for almost 20 years before being destroyed by a fire in 1960. Its success spawned a second hotel on what would become the Strip, the Hotel Last Frontier, in 1942. Organized crime figures such as New York’s Bugsy Siegel took interest in the growing gaming center leading to other resorts such as the Flamingo, which opened in 1946, and the Desert Inn, which opened in 1950. The funding for many projects was provided through the American National Insurance Company, which was based in the then notorious gambling empire of Galveston, Texas.
Several decades ago, Las Vegas Boulevard South was called Arrowhead Highway, or Los Angeles Highway. The Strip was reportedly named by Los Angeles police officer Guy McAfee, after his hometown’s Sunset Strip.
In 1968, Kirk Kerkorian purchased the Flamingo and hired Sahara Hotels Vice President Alex Shoofey as President. Alex Shoofey brought along 33 of Sahara’s top executives. The Flamingo was used to train future employees of the International Hotel, which was under construction. Opening in 1969, the International Hotel, with 1,512 rooms, began the era of mega-resorts. The International is known as the Las Vegas Hilton today.
The first MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, also a Kerkorian property, opened in 1973 with 2,084 rooms. At the time, this was one of the largest hotels in the world by number of rooms. The Rossiya Hotel built in 1967 in Moscow, for instance, had 3200 rooms; however, most of the rooms in the Rossiya Hotel were single rooms of 118 sq. ft (roughly 1/4 size of a standard room at the MGM Grand Resort. On November 21, 1980, the MGM Grand suffered the worst resort fire in the history of Las Vegas, killing 87 people as a result of electrical problems. It reopened eight months later. In 1986, Kerkorian sold the MGM Grand to Bally Manufacturing, and it was renamed Bally’s.
The Wet ‘n Wild water park opened in 1985 and was located on the south side of the Sahara hotel. The park closed at the end of the 2004 season and was later demolished.
Las Vegas Strip at night with the Aladdin (Now Planet Hollywood)
The opening of The Mirage in 1989 set a new level to the Las Vegas experience, as smaller hotels and casinos made way for the larger mega-resorts. These huge facilities offer entertainment and dining options, as well as gambling and lodging. This change affected the smaller, well-known and now historic hotels and casinos, like The Dunes, The Sands and the Stardust.
In 1995, following the death of Dean Martin, the lights along the Strip were dimmed in a sign of respect to him. This was repeated in 1998 in honor of the recently deceased Frank Sinatra. In 2005, Clark County renamed a section of Industrial Road (south of Twain Avenue) as Dean Martin Drive, also as a tribute to the famous Rat Pack singer, actor, and frequent Las Vegas entertainer.
In an effort to attract families, resorts offered more attractions geared toward youth, but had limited success. The (current) MGM Grand opened in 1993 with Grand Adventures amusement park, but the park closed in 2000 due to lack of interest. Similarly, in 2003 Treasure Island closed its own video arcade and abandoned the previous pirate theme, adopting the new ti name.
In addition to the large hotels, casinos and resorts, the Strip is home to a few smaller casinos and other attractions, such as M&M World, Adventuredome and the Fashion Show Mall. Starting in the mid-1990s, the Strip became a popular New Year’s Eve celebration destination.
In 2004, MGM Mirage announced plans for Project CityCenter, a 66-acre (27 ha), $7 billion multi-use project on the site of the Boardwalk hotel and adjoining land. It consists of hotel, casino, condo, retail, art, business and other uses on the site. City Center is currently the largest such complex in the world. Construction began in April 2006, with most elements of the project opened in late 2009.
In 2006, the Las Vegas Strip lost its longtime status as the world’s highest-grossing gambling center, falling to second place behind Macau.