The first reported European visitor to the Las Vegas valley was Raphael Rivera in 1829. In the 19th century, areas of the valley contained artesian wells that supported extensive green areas or meadows (vegas in Spanish); hence the name Las Vegas.
Compared with other cities in the Western U.S., Las Vegas is a relatively recent arrival. It was founded in 1905, and for many years it was merely a small settlement in the middle of the desert before becoming an incorporated city on March 16, 1911. However, several pivotal events would come together in less than twenty years to make Las Vegas what it is today.
Namely, the construction of Hoover Dam in 1928 which brought thousands of workers to the area. Then, when Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, what is now Downtown Las Vegas became an entertainment center for the dam workers, harbouring casinos and speakeasies.
In 1941 the luxurious El Rancho Vegas Resort opened on what would later become the Las Vegas Strip, seven miles from Downtown. There, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel later opened the Flamingo in 1946, the most luxurious hotel-casino of its time, starting the building boom and one-upmanship that would continue largely unabated for the next 50 years. This created a precedent of Organized Crime involvement in Nevada's gambling industry that arguably persists.