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Celebrating the Decades: Development of the Las Vegas Strip in the Eighties

Vegas NYE

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As we get ready to wrap up the decade of the 2010s, we’re taking a look back at the ’80s. The ’80s brought some big changes to the Las Vegas landscape. Development was spreading into the suburbs.

Steve Wynn is now one of the most controversial figures in Las Vegas history. He is persona non grata in the gaming industry now, but in the late 80s his vision began to transform the strip into the glittering boulevard we see today.

In the ’80s, classic hotels like the Flamingo, Sands and Desert Inn were still drawing in tourists, but there was little new development. That all changed with Steve Wynn.

“It was Steve Wynn who said ‘no, there’s a great future for the Strip and it’s going to be in the form of these mega resorts,’” said Geoff Schumacher — Mob Museum Senior Director of Content.

Wynn built the Mirage for a whopping $630 million. It opened in 1989, welcoming guests with a massive fountain and volcano. It would be the first of several mega resorts that would tower about the Strip.

The desert around the Strip was also about to boom. Green Valley was the first master-planned community — the brainchild of Hank Greenspun — the publisher of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.

Plans for another community were also in the works west of the Strip. The Summa Company, run by the heirs of Howard Hughes, started planting the seeds of what would become Summerlin.

“There’s this whole new form of living that develops in Las Vegas,” Schumacher said. “In the 80s you start seeing people go ‘Ok, I can live in Vegas and not work in the casino industry.’” 

The 80s also marked the end the mob era in Las Vegas. The State Gaming Control Board was cracking down on skimming at casinos.

Infamous mob boss Tony Spilatro protected the skim in Vegas properties. He was killed in 1986.

“After that, the mob for all intents and purposes is out of the casino business now, and it opens the door for major corporate investment in the city,” Schumacher said.

Steve Wynn was out at the company he built after numerous sexual harassment allegations surfaced in 2017 and 2018. The Gaming Control Board is also trying to permanently ban him.  That is still the subject of an ongoing battle.

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