DEVELOPER 1: Hm. Nothing but desert as far as the eye can see. How could we fool people into coming here?
DEVELOPER 2: *thinks* How's that saying go? Wine, women, and song? That's it!
DEVELOPER 1: What's it? How is an old saying going to make us any money?
DEVELOPER 2: Wine. Alcohol, and lots of it. Women. Prostitution. Legal prostitution. Song. Okay, this one doesn't really fit. Replace it with gambling. Legal gambling. Actually, let's bring in some singers, too. There. Song fits again.
Seeing as I just made up the above exchange, I can almost certainly guarantee that isn't how Nevada got its start, but it is what most of us think of when we hear Nevada, Las Vegas. In no other place in the US can you find so many adult theme parks, so much free alcohol, and legal prostitutes. I'm sure Nevada has other things to offer. For example, it's the setting of Jerry Bruckheimer's hit crime drama, CSI: (which, for reasons I still can't fathom, ends with a colon). It's also currently governed by a man named Kenny¹. You've got to respect a man that runs for public office and wins who still answers to a nickname he probably got in the second grade.
Mining - Are you serious? They've got hookers and you're gonna talk about mining?
When you think of Nevada, you might think of three things: Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, and CSI:. Before the big three came around, however, there was mining. At first, Nevada was just one more state full of desert to trek through before getting to California (where, rumor has it, gold grows on trees. Really! Gold trees!). As people started towns on the route to that glorious banana-shaped state, they discovered gold, silver, and gyspsum deposits. The towns that used to just be on the way were now mining towns in their own right. Dayton, Virginia City, and Eureka are some of Nevada's more famous historic mining towns. Some are still active today while others have been preserved and serve as museums. Today, mining is one of Nevada's largest industries. It is second only to tourism.
Aliens and Government Conspiracies - It's not hookers, but at least it's not more mining.
Nevada is home to Nellis Air Base. Nellis Air Base is home to two interesting things: a nuclear testing site and Area 51. It's commonly understood that advanced aircraft are housed and tested at Area 51. Conspiracy theorists, however, also believe that the US government has recovered UFOs and aliens and that they are being held at Area 51. A popular light-gun game, conveniently also called Area 51 and probably extant in your neighborhood arcade, corroborates this claim. In all seriousness, if there are aliens they're very well-hidden. There's some very cool stuff in there though, like the F117-A stealth fighter.
Las Vegas - Finally, we're gonna hear about the hookers!
Las Vegas is Spanish for "the meadows." Why anybody would refer to an oasis as a meadow, I'm uncertain, but that's just what Spanish traders who used Las Vegas as a pit stop on their way to Los Angeles called it*. Later, in 1855, the Mormons colonized the Las Vegas spring. They only stayed for two years, but a section of their fort, now referred to as Mormon Fort (how apropos), remains as the oldest structure in the city. In 1904, the railroad laid tracks through the Las Vegas Valley, purchased the best land, bought all the water, and held an auction. They sold 700 lots, and Las Vegas was born as a small watering stop with only a few thousand residents. In 1928, the US government began the Boulder Canyon Project which would later be known as the Hoover Dam. The project brought Nevada an influx of Depression workers, eager to find jobs working on the dam. A short three years later, Governor Balzar approved the Wide Open gambling bill, making gambling legal state-wide.
When work began on the Hoover Dam, the government set up Boulder City to house its workers. It is the only place in the state that gambling is illegal. By the early 1940s, Las Vegas started to become the adult paradise we know and love today. The first true casino to go up was Thomas Hull's El Rancho Las Vegas whose success prompted the construction of The Last Frontier down the road. And so began the Las Vegas Strip. The casinos fed on one another's success, and now the city is home to such enormous gambling houses as the MGM Grand, Caesar's Palace, and Treasure Island (whose sirens put on quite a show, by the way).
Legal Prostitution - This one's gotta be about hookers!
Nevada is the only state in the US in which prostitution is legal. As of 2004, there are around 30 active brothels in the state. None of these brothels are in Las Vegas's Clark County, however, because there are too many residents. Any Nevada county with fewer than 400,000 residents may license brothels. Any county may outlaw prostitution. The prostitutes are tested weekly for various STDs and monthly for HIV, and condoms are mandatory for all intercourse and oral sex acts. The proprietor of a brothel can be held responsible if a client is infected with HIV after a prostitute has tested positive for the disease. The prostitutes are considered independent contractors, and prices tend to be higher the closer one gets to Las Vegas. Even though prostitution is legal in the state, there are still rules that must be followed. Prostitution is only legal in a licensed brothel. Persons caught hooking outside of a brothel are arrested for the misdemeanor. This doesn't stop independent prostitutes from working in Las Vegas's casino bars though. They continue to work there outside of licensed brothels because there are willing customers and Las Vegas, due to its location in Clark County, has no brothels from which the ladies of the evening can offer their services in a legal fashion.
Fun Facts - What's left that's fun? Hookers were in the last paragraph!
Final Thought - Who are you, Jerry Springer?
Yeah, those sirens at Treasure Island I mentioned eariler? Very hot. And their show is free. Go see them. Now. The show also has pirates. Hot chicks and pirates. What are you waiting for? Go!
- Official State of Nevada website, author unknown, http://www.nv.gov/
- Area 51, thales, http://www.everything2.com/?node_id=1396019
- Brief History of Las Vegas, InterMind Corp., http://www.intermind.net/im/history.html
- Historic Mining Towns, Nevada Commission on Tourism, http://travelnevada.com/nevada_mining_town.asp
- Nevada Facts and Information, Nevada Commission on Tourism, http://travelnevada.com/facts_student.asp
- Prostitution in Nevada, anonymous collaboration, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_Nevada
* Roninspoon informs me that according to legend, the Nevada scrub land looks like a meadow from atop the Sierra Nevada mountains. You really do learn something every day.