While Las Vegas isn’t really known for homey, holiday traditions, the month of December is actually pretty significant in Las Vegas’ history. New casinos and entertainment acts tend to open in December, capitalizing on New Year’s Eve excitement. People get desperate as holiday stresses push some of us over the edge. And local and state governments finalize end of year decisions as budgets run dry and fiscal calendars are made. Below are NPF’s chosen twelve days of Las Vegas history.

On the first day of Christmas, NPF gave to me…

  1. 1928, Dec. 21: Congress approved the Boulder Canyon Project Act, authorizing construction of then named Boulder Dam on the Colorado River. The dam is now named Hoover Dam.
  2. 1946, Dec. 26:  Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo Hotel. Opening night entertainment included singer and comedian Jimmy Durante, but bad weather conditions kept many tourists from attending the event. During the first week of operation, the hotel was rumored to have lost as much as $300,000.
  3. 1948, Dec. 20:  Alamo Airport became McCarran Field, now known as McCarran International Airport. The opening of the commercial airport greatly enhanced the image of Las Vegas as the tourism capital of the American West.
  4. 1952, Dec. 15: The Sands opened as the seventh resort on The Strip, solidifying Las Vegas’ mid-century transformation into a resort city.
  5. 1967, Dec. 31: Evel Knievel crashed during his famous jump over the fountains at Caesars Palace. The jump was his longest to date at 141 feet. As a result of the crash, Knievel suffered a crushed pelvis and femur and a concussion that kept him in the hospital for a month in a reported coma for 29 days.
  6. 1969, Dec. 2: Cindy Birdsong of The Supremes was kidnapped at knifepoint from the building she lived in. She later escaped unharmed by jumping out of his car on the San Diego freeway. The kidnapper was arrested in Las Vegas four days later.
  7. 1976, Dec. 2: Elvis began his final performances of his residency at The Hilton. His last shows ran between Dec. 2-12.
  8. 1995, Dec. 14: Downtown Las Vegas fought back against the strip resorts to regain some allure to the tourism industry and the $70 million Fremont Street Experience opened.
  9. 1995, Dec. 25:The former Rat Pack member Dean Martin died of lung cancer. Despite being known for his drunken stage performances, Dean Martin was by far one of the most popular entertainers of the Las Vegas night scene. He and his fellow Rat Packers performed nightly at The Sands Hotel.
  10. 1996, Dec. 10, The Hacienda was closed to the public, and imploded later that month. Located on the south end of the strip, The Hacienda was the first hotel and casino seen by car traffic from California of the better part of half a century.
  11. 2009, Dec. 16: MGM Resorts International opened the Aria Resort and Casino, part of the of the CityCenter complex, including the opening of Vdara and Mandarin Oriental.
  12. 2010, Dec. 14: The “Bellagio Bandit” successfully robbed Bellagio of $1.5 million in casino chips and got away on a motorcycle. After being caught, it was found out that the same man also robbed the Suncoast Casino on Dec. 9 of just under $20,000 in cash.

What are some of your favorite moments of December history in Nevada? Let us know in the comments below!

Leave a Comment