If you’re reading this, there is a strong chance that you enjoy playing games on your computer, console or smartphone, at least occasionally. In the USA, around two-thirds of the population enjoy this hobby, though the proportion is even higher among younger and tech-savvy demographics. Ease of access to games is one of the reasons behind this phenomenon, thanks to smartphones giving everyone a gaming machine to carry around with them everywhere they go. For online casinos, in particular, that ease of access has been improved even further by the fact that many leading brands offer unique bonuses to boost patron’s bankrolls when they join.

But if it wasn’t for Las Vegas, however, this gaming landscape would be very different. It’s likely that casino games would be nowhere near as popular as they are today, particularly blackjack, poker, and slots – three popular options that were shaped into their modern forms by the city.

Of course, today’s Las Vegas faces far more competition as a place to play games than at any time in its history. A big part of this comes from those online casinos and their bonuses since they allow millions of casino game players to enjoy all of their favorite titles from home or anywhere else with an internet connection.

Gaming in the Desert

© Can Stock Photo / trekandshoot

However, competition also comes from cities across the United States and the rest of the world that have taken influence from Vegas or even outright copied it. For instance, New Jersey’s Atlantic City was redeveloped in the mid-20th century to become a “Las Vegas of the east” while China’s Macau has done similar. Japan has plans to build Vegas-style integrated resorts in several of its cities, while the UK seaside resort of Blackpool previously attempted to create its own “super casino”.

The Beginnings

None of this would have happened, had it not been for Las Vegas pioneering the way. Before it, casino games were difficult to find in most US cities, with most players having to resort to unofficial and underground establishments to enjoy a flutter.

Of all the places where you might have thought a revolution could take place, an empty space in the middle of a desert is probably not it. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.

Las Vegas was founded in 1905 when a rail road was opened, connecting Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, though it didn’t become official until 1911. Even then, it was little more than a few farms.

It was the construction of the Hoover Dam that became the catalyst for Las Vegas to grow into a casino town. Workers from the nearby construction site would visit in search of fun and find saloons offering food, drink, and various forms of entertainment. Among this offering were small casinos offering a range of different card games to their guests.

Las Vegas would then develop a reputation for being an adult playground with all the fun and excitement you could want and the saloons with saw dust-covered floors would eventually grow into fully-fledged gaming parlors.

These casinos would slowly grow from the small downtown establishments you can still find near the strip today into the giant resorts that offer huge gaming floors, night clubs, swimming pools, golf courses, theme parks, restaurants, bars, spas, and shopping malls all under one roof.

Shaping Games and Growing Interest

It wasn’t just giant mega casinos that Las Vegas invented. The city is also responsible for shaping modern versions of games and helping to popularize many of them. The three best examples of this are blackjack, poker, and slots. Las Vegas did not invent any of these popular games, they originated elsewhere, but Nevada’s casino city turned them into what we know them as in the 21st century.

Blackjack was the first classic casino favorite to get the Las Vegas treatment. It is an evolution of a popular card game that has been played in just about every part of the world for several centuries and historians actually continue to debate its exact origins. What we do know for certain, however, is that Europeans brought their various versions of “21” to the United States when they traveled to the new world in search of opportunities.

As a result, 21 was played in many of Vegas’ early casinos. Enterprising casino owners were always in search of a way to stand out from their neighboring competitors, so began creating different side bets to augment 21. One of these was “blackjack” which would pay out to the player if they drew a black jack from the deck. Eventually, the side bet disappeared but the name stuck and eventually replaced most other versions of the game.

Poker was another popular card game brought to the USA by European settlers. Very quickly, these early Americans began creating their own versions of the game, most notably Texas Hold’em. However, while the Lone Star State got the recognition, it was Nevada that made it famous.

The World Series of Poker, which was first held in Vegas in the 1970s soon recognised Texas hold’em as a better variant of the game for use in tournaments and it was only a couple of years after the inaugural event that hold’em became the main event.

Slots too were invented elsewhere. They’re a much newer invention, created by European immigrants in California in the late 19th century. These automated gaming machines were an overnight success but it was in Vegas that they grew into cultural phenomena.

Casinos in the city placed them in row after row, creating seas of slots that would ring and ding all day long. Vegas gaming businesses helped to pioneer the large handles that led to slots being nicknamed ‘one-armed bandits’ and would eventually go on to popularize the video slot.

These video variants are the versions of slots that players enjoy when they join an online casino today. Without the early work of Las Vegas resorts to help shape and popularize the format, it’s unlikely that video slots and, therefore, online casinos would be the hits they’ve become.

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