Gambling’s Rise

The legalization of gambling casinos in Nevada in 1931 helped mark a new era in the history of gambling. In the 1940s, a number of colorful characters including Busby Siegel and Meyer Lansky, became involved in the development of the Las Vegas strip.

However, it may have been Hollywood and the Rat Pack in the mid-1960s that had the greatest impact in popularizing Las Vegas and gambling. The Rat Pack consisted of entertainers Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Normal Fell. The group frequently headlined television and print entertainment news.

Members of the Rat Pack made a number of highly popular films including Ocean’s 11, 4 for Texas, Robin and the 7 Hoods, Sergeants 3, Johnny Cool and Pepe. They often costarred or appeared with actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson and Shirley MacLaine. Since all these entertainers were headliners in Las Vegas, they brought in huge crowds to the casinos. The movies also helped to establish America’s gambling capital as a “cool” destination.

During the same era, other gambling hotspots like Monte Carlo and Macau also frequently appear in popular films in a way that depicted the pastime as the “in” thing, especially among sophisticated “swingers.”

Many celebrities and wealthy individuals came to Las Vegas during the Rat Pack heyday inevitably leaving small fortunes behind that helped in the rapid expansion of the Las Vegas Strip.