Las Vegas Boulevard was nicknamed “The Strip” because it reminded former LA police captain Guy McAfee of the Sunset Strip. McAfee moved to Las Vegas in 1938, after being obliged to resign because he controlled a string of illegal gambling joints, and took over the boulevard’s first casin, the Pair-O-Dice Club. Over the next ten years, it was joined on the Strip by El Rancho in 1941, the Last Frontier in 1942, Bugsy Siegel’s legendary Flamingo in 1946 and the Thunderbird in 1948.
For casino owners, much of the appeal of the Strip was that it lay outside city limits in Clark County, where they could dominate what little political life there was, sparing themselves the scrutiny suffered by their rivals downtown. By not being under the jurisdiction of the city authorities, they’ve been free to pursue their own development agendas ever since.
This iconic sign stands in the centre of the median Strip, nearly one kilometre south of Mandalay Bay and it one of the first things to greet you as you make your way from McCarran Airport into the city or as you drive in from Los Angeles. It now has its own parking lot in the central median – only accessible to drivers heading south – so visitors eager to pose for pics no longer have to dash through the traffic to reach it. Interestingly, the sign is actually 6.5 kilometres south of the official city line; at this point, you’re still in Paradise Nevada.
The sign was designed by Betty Willis in 1959.