Examining The History Of Las Vegas Cultural Studies Essay

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Divorce was made substantially easier to obtain in Nevada than anywhere else; people had to live in Nevada for just six weeks before they could be granted a divorce. One famous example is Ria Langham and Clark Gable, Ria was pictured gambling and enjoying herself in Vegas in the weeks preceding her divorce. This helped created an image of Vegas as the sort of place where the unconventional and frowned upon aspects of society were accepted, considered normal and people relished doing them.

Many businesses choose to manufacture there, primarily industries such as the manufacturing of slot machines. However it is the fact that something is produced there not the product in question which is of primary importance; industry brings jobs and investment to an area. It helps create economic certainty and can encourage more and higher levels of investment.

There is constant population growth in Las Vegas, this means that there is constant demand for housing and the houses that exist already are pushed up in value. Yet this means that Vegas suffered badly in the economic downturn of 2007 - 09, it had one of the highest number of home foreclosures in the US.

Hospitality based industries are very dependent upon the economic climate, is it is positive and there is a booming economy people have higher levels of disposable income and are much more willing to spend them on frivolities and unnecessary expenditures - a spirit on which Las Vegas depends.

Las Vegas exists primarily in many people's minds as a place to escape to, it has an anything goes spirit, though its escapist values may prove to be its downfall. It is so far away from other major cities and so detached from normality and social conventions it is distant and too different to attract normal business. This can be shown by the new trends in architecture in Vegas that show increasing levels of homogeneity with other large American cities, it is making an effort to appear more normal.

Attempts have been made to attract light manufacturing, banking and other commercial interests - this is benefited and made a more attractive and lucrative opportunity by a lack of state, individual and corporate income tax and also by a lack of complex red tape for establishing a business.

However as already said Vegas was badly affected by the recent recession, a lot of the money was actually based upon credit loaned out by banks and so when the credit disappeared so did people and businesses willing to invest in Vegas or just spend money in the many casinos, hotels and other establishments.

In one light the city has made efforts to divert profits from the 'entertainment dollar', for example there are no major sports teams from Las Vegas. Instead the city plays hosts to major sporting events, by doing this Vegas and companies based there can benefit from the profits to be made by hosting the events and the people who support them and the bets they make on the outcome, but minimal amounts of investment have to be made in the actual sports teams.

Las Vegas also heavily benefited from Federal development throughout the twentieth century, for example many highways were built going specifically to and through Las Vegas. There was also the Hoover Dam project and then airbases during World War Two and the development and heavy use of the Nevada test site during the Cold War. All of these enterprises involved large amounts of workers (and their families) pouring into the area and Las Vegas was the only place to go for entertainment.

The development of the Nevada test site helped transform Las Vegas from a city that lived in the past and off an image that they helped create of the Old West into a new and vibrant city that looked towards the new, atomic future. There are numerous examples of establishments built or altering in order to cater to the new hunger for all things atomic, one example is the Stardust casino that was built with a futuristic theme, a stark contrast to older establishments such as

Las Vegas was a rebellion against the much more straight-laced, Victorian facade that most of modern America complied with. There was a strong spirit of mutiny against the white middle class way of life and the moral values that it upheld. Las Vegas was exciting, dangerous, risqué and yet at the same time strived to be very American (big and creating a new (atomic) Frontier). This was at a time when America needed to show itself to the rest of the world as unified, so provided the activities provided were American enough, it can be believed that they were privately condoned.

The all - American (and all - 'Western') approach of Las Vegas can be shown by its domination of the world's gaming industry after the rise of Fidel Castro in Cuba in 1959 and the eventual intervention of the Federal Government and its crackdown on the mob dominated ownership of the Casinos and the replacement of the mob with big private investors who made the whole industry seem far more legitimate, however the house still always wins.

An important part of the history of Las Vegas is the domination of the mob. Vegas was in part originally funded purely by mob dollars, with significant players being characters such as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Meyer Lansky. However the use of the mob can be seen as benefitting Vegas, because it provided the capital for the gaming industry to be firmly established and it enhanced amoral aspect of Vegas that became integral to the city's reputation. Also, by using money that was of dubious origins but turning it into a business it added to the "anything's possible" American dream aspect that was so fundamental to the American West.

However there was the problem of the growth of Vegas outstripping the funding available from the mobsters and so during the 1980s when the FBI instigated a 'purification' of Las Vegas and removed the mobsters it was the perfect time for the instigation of big, legitimate businesses. One key example is Howard Hughes who ended up owning a significant portion of the strip. The advent of big businesses was key to the success of Vegas into the later twentieth century and then the twenty-first century, because that was the way that business markets were developing - in order to succeed they had to think very big.

Another important change that came with the big businesses was the many hotels that were built, the ATMs that were brought in and the establishment of credit. An abundance of hotels allowed more people to stay for longer, ATMs meant that people had more money to spend and credit meant that when people lost more money than they could afford to pay it was not the casino that was left out of pocket.

However the investment of big businesses did not help the environment, investors in the American West have typically exploited the environment and Vegas were no exception. In the desert water was viewed as the most important asset to have and so while experts called for the establishment of "hazard zones" and water conservation to protect the environment and the people living there big businesses did not want to short change their customers where comforts and standards were expected. There is also the idea that an extravagant display of water is a display of the wealth and power of the establishment. One critic said of Vegas in respect to this 'It was born dumb'.

Las Vegas can be seen as a place of ultimate contrasts, there is the belief that you can go there and make your fortune against all the odds, however for many years this was only true if you were white, well connected and already wealthy. There is still the old adage that "the house always wins", this can be shown in more than just losing a gamble. The whole city is built in neon light; there are historians who study Vegas through its neon. It's been said that Vegas looks better at night, when the grim realities are hidden and everything basks in the light of a neon facade. In a town based on chance nothing can be perceived as truly certain. Vegas has also been described as a place of pure invention in an invented place. Las Vegas made itself out of nothing and gave itself a life based on the myth of the old West, and then later attempted to make a new life out of an unrealistic (atomic) future.

However Las Vegas thrives on the Old West ethic that anything is possible. There are 120 000 weddings held there every year, meaning that at minimum hundreds of thousands of people just visit there for the hope it gives them a spark to start a new life. This belief in the endless possibilities of Vegas by a quote from the mayor of Vegas (Oscar Goodman) "Where else in America could a mobster's lawyer become town mayor?"

Vegas is constantly re-inventing itself. Old establishments are demolished to make way for new ones and the new themes they establish and the new people they bring in. There is now even a move to create 'non - Vegas' enterprises, the buildings are less garish and there are no casinos inside. Las Vegas is trying to adapt and become more acceptable to modern ways of life. However it has also been called 'The toilet of the United States', it is where everything and anything either ends up or can be found. It has earned a reputation as a fun, exciting place to be; yet it has not escaped its reputation as a place to end up.