Las Vegas Towards Continued Prosperity

New investors placed the Nevada industry upon a firmer financial footing, during the late 1960s and 1970s.

Howard Hughes spent approximately $70 million on four Strip hotel- casinos, including the recently remodeled and renamed Frontier, and by 1970s, new Hughes owned six gaming establishments in Las Vegas and another in Reno.

The investments of the eccentric millionaire, along with those of tycoon Kirk Kerkorian, lent greater responsibility to an industry plagued continually in these years by highly publicized charges of corruption and the involvement of organized crime.

Another more legitimate source of financing came to be tapped when the state agreed to permit publicly traded companies to own hotel-casinos in 1969.

Throughout the 1970s, large companies gained still more control of the resort industry in southern Nevada.

Such companies as Hilton Hotels and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer soon discovered that their Las Vegas establishments brought in gross revenues that far exceeded the income from any of their other holdings.

Casino gaming in Las Vegas continued to offer enormous potential for profit.

To players and to local residents who liked to remember the 'hoodlum' ear of more personal casino management, the new corporate ownership seemed faceless.

Complaints about fewer complimentary goods and services, stricter cost-accounting, more impersonal treatment, and declining sensitivity to the surrounding community were hardly new in southern Nevada.

On the other hand, a walkout by culinary and bartenders' unions in March 1970, which closed casinos and darkened the Strip for four days, was unprecedented.

Daily losses of $600,000 in casino profits, $500,000 in workers' wages and tips, and $33,000 in tax revenue did not prevent the recurrence of serious breakdowns in industrial negotiations in 1976 and 1984.

New tensions between management and labor dramatized the heightened importance of corporate ownership of casinos and hotels.

The larger units of ownership may have cerated additional difficulties and they never truly overcame such problems as organized crime and corruption, but growth nonetheless continued to characterize Las Vegas.

The belief that more meant better still held sway in the development of new hotel-casinos.

Caesar's Palace, which opened along the Los Angeles highway in 1966, topped its predecessors in opulence, and the MGM Grand Hotel, opened in 1973, outsized everything along the Strip.

The new structures stood decidedly more upright. By surpassing the electric signs that had dominated the skyline during the mid-1960s, casino and hotel buildings downtown and on the Strip came to dominate the cityscape.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas spread horizontally at the same time that it climbed vertically.

The population of the metropolitan area grew from 273,288 in 1970 to 461,816 in 1980, sprawling throughout the desert valley.

Inflation accounted for part of the multiplying total revenues, but even more important was the lengthening amount of time spent in the resort.

The average visitor, who had stayed 2.3 nights in Las Vegas in 1970, spent 4.3 nights there by 1980. Because it now cost more to get to the resort, visitors seemed determined to get the most for their travel money.

The bulk of tourists, especially Southern Californians, continued to arrive by car. But they found fuel costs rising rapidly after 1970.

The growth in total revenues suggested that tourism could survive higher transportation costs. Las Vegas remained a boom town through the 1970s.

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