Las Vegas became an incorporated city and adopted its first charter on March 16, 1911. At the time of incorporation, the city encompassed 19.18 square miles, and had approximately 800 inhabitants, less than 1 percent of the states total population. Clark County had a population at the time of 3,321.
By 1930, Las Vegas had grown to a population of 5,165. In 1931, three events occurred that would forever change the face of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas.
On March 19, 1931 gambling was legalized in the State of Nevada. One month later, the city issued six gambling licenses.
Divorce laws were liberalized in the State of Nevada, making residency easier to attain. A "quickie" divorce could be attained after six weeks of residency. These short-term residents stayed at "dude ranches" which were the forerunners of the sprawling Strip hotels.
Beginning in 1931, the construction of Hoover Dam brought an influx of construction workers which started a population boom and gave the Valley’s economy, which was in the grips of the Great Depression, a needed boost.
By 1940 Las Vegas' population had grown to 8,422. The outbreak of World War II brought the defense industry to the valley. The isolated location, along with plentiful water and inexpensive energy, made Las Vegas an ideal site for military and defense related industries. The site for Nellis Air Force Base was located in the northeast, and the Basic Management Complex, providers of raw materials, was located in the southeastern suburb of Henderson. The defense industry continues to employ a significant number of valley residents.
Following World War II, lavishly decorated resort hotels and gambling casinos offering top-name entertainment came into existence. Tourism and entertainment took over as the largest employer in the valley.
In 1956, the city of Las Vegas annexed one square mile of land, its first such addition since incorporation 45 years earlier.
By 1960, Las Vegas encompassed 25 square miles and had a population of 64,405. Las Vegas had more than 22 percent of Nevada’s total population on less than .02 percent of the State's land. At the same time, Clark County had a population of 127,016. During the 1960s, a phenomenon lead by Howard Hughes, occurred in Las Vegas. Corporations were building and/or buying hotel/casino properties. They had the capital necessary and the profitability made entrance into the casino industry extremely attractive. Gambling had become "gaming" and was starting the transition into legitimate business.
Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, corporations continued to invest in the hotel/casino industry. Gaming had become a legitimate business and some properties had stock traded on the market. Las Vegas economy remained strong and the population increased to 164,674 by 1980. Clark County, meanwhile, had grown to a population of 463,087.
Starting in the mid 1980s, a period of unprecedented growth began. Annual population increases averaging nearly 7 percent caused the city's population to almost double between 1985 and 1995, increasing from 186,380 to 368,360 during that time, a 97.6 percent increase. That is equivalent to building a city larger than Reno in 10 years! At the same time, Clark County’s population increased from 562,280 to 1,036,180, an increase of 84.3 percent.
Contributing to the population growth was a 4 percent annual increase in hotel rooms and a 9.18 percent annual increase in jobs from 1990 through 1994.
And the growth continues still. The latest population prediction in the Las Vegas Valley is 2 million people by 2005.