I have a theory about the social interconnectivity of Las Vegas: If you were here before the big growth spurt of the 1990s, you are but one degree of separation from everyone else who was also here then. Sure, it’s just a theory, but I test it every chance I get. In fact, just last week I was at a vintage furniture store grand opening on Main Street when I met another guy who grew up here. We started chatting, and it turned out that his father and mine moved here from the same state (New Mexico) to work for the same contractors (REECO and EG&G) on the same project (the Nevada Test Site). Biz-zam! My theory stands!
As far as your “gap” goes, I don’t buy it—at least not over the long haul. Once a person has been here a few years and doesn’t project the sense that he or she is packed to leave, the newcomer becomes a local. After all, this is a city built by outsiders chasing opportunity. Forget Reno: Las Vegas really is the biggest little city in the world.
What is the single most important change to occur in the modern era of Las Vegas?
Excellent question, as Las Vegas is a city that not only embraces change, but survives on it. But not all change is transformative. An obvious example of transformative change would be the move from individual casino operators to corporate ownership; thank then-Gov. Paul Laxalt and squeaky-clean casino owner Howard Hughes for the Corporate Gaming Act of 1969—which followed on the heels of the first Corporate Gaming Act of 1967. Together, the acts are often cited as the reason Vegas went “legit” … and sterile.
Another transformative moment was the rush toward fantastical theming of casino resorts upon the 1989 opening of The Mirage. (Disneyfication, here we come!) Still, I consider that massive 1990s population rush—spurred by a media frenzy touting Las Vegas as a modern-day Detroit where anyone could land a good-paying job and a nice house with a yard—as the real answer to your question. In a quick decade, our metro area doubled in population, from a manageable city of 850,000 to a metropolis of almost 1.6 million. The place has not been the same since.