Las Vegas

Why is Las Vegas called Sin City? Here's the history of the famous nickname

Las Vegas earned the nickname Sin City decades before its strip became the Broadway of temptation

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The Super Bowl is coming to Sin City.

Most know exactly where Sin City is located. And many probably know why the nickname has stuck in Las Vegas. Especially those who have visited the strip, made far too many trips to the ATM, and uttered the phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Las Vegas is the ultimate adult playground, an uncensored paradise lined with streets of casinos, resorts and endless nightlife options. And despite its nickname and reputation, Vegas also offers plenty of sin-free, family-friendly entertainment.

But for those who would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, there’s a seat at a blackjack table in a window-less casino waiting for you and your wallet.

Sit down and you might quickly find out why Las Vegas is called Sin City.

Why is Las Vegas called Sin City? 

The seven deadly sins are 1) anger and hatred, 2) jealousy, 3) excesses and vices, 4) greed, 5) lust, 6) vanity, and 7) laziness.

Many of those are elicited by the guilty pleasures that have long been permitted and provided in Las Vegas — which includes gambling, alcohol, entertainment and even nearby locales with legalized prostitution.

A 2023 study by WalletHub, a personal finance website, measured each of the seven sin categories within 182 U.S. cities. The study determined that the most sinful city in America remains Sin City itself.

Las Vegas ranked No. 1 in greed and cracked the top-five in lust, vanity and laziness.

“The city has a ‘round-the-clock nightlife as well as an abundance of casinos that make you forget what time it is and how much you can afford to wager,” wrote WalletHub’s Adam McCann. “Plus, there’s no shortage of adult entertainment options in Sin City — not to mention a plethora of buffets to pig out on, spas in which to channel your inner sloth and more.”

When was Las Vegas first called Sin City?

Las Vegas earned the nickname Sin City decades before its strip became the Broadway of temptation.

The area was discovered in the 1820s by Rafael Rivera during Antonio Armijo’s expedition to open a trade route between New Mexico and California, according to Rivera named it Las Vegas - which in Spanish means “The Meadows” - after the spring-watered grasses in the region.    

After the railroad auctioned parcels of land in 1905, the 16th block of the new townsite was designated for saloons, according to Lynn Comella, women’s studies professor at the University of Nevada. As Block 16 attracted nearby railroad workers and travelers, Comella said, the area became a haven for vice. That led to a surge in prostitution and illicit activities.

Reports suggest this is when the nickname "Sin City" first originated.

As the city grew, and tolerance for prostitution waned, the federal government pressured city officials to clean up the Las Vegas image, Comella said.

Casinos and showgirl venues began to open on Freemont Street in Las Vegas in the 1930s following the construction of the Hoover Dam, which drew workers to the city. The 1940s saw the opening of hotels in Las Vegas, many of which were funded in part by organized crime syndicates, to form the earliest version of “The Strip.”

Some believe it was around the time these mob-backed resorts opened and crime followed that the “Sin City” nickname was first widely used. Others say it wasn't until the release of the 1964 book “Las Vegas, City of Sin? The Inside Story from Behind the Scenes” which was written by casino executives Dick Taylor and Pat Howell.  

When did professional sports come to Las Vegas?

There was once a time when professional sports leagues distanced themselves from Las Vegas because of the area’s gambling ties.

Not anymore.

Las Vegas now boasts teams in the National Football League, National Hockey League and Women’s National Basketball Association, and soon, in Major League Baseball.

The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights were first to arrive in 2017, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in the franchise’s first season. The Knights have made the playoffs in all but one season of their existence, winning the Stanley Cup in the 2022-2023 season.

The WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces were established in 2018, relocating from San Antonio. The team is the reigning back-to-back champions, becoming the first team to repeat in over 20 years.  

The NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders left Oakland for Sin City in 2020, playing their first game at Allegiant Stadium that September. The upcoming Super Bowl will be the first postseason football game that the stadium has hosted.

It will be the latest notable sporting event that Las Vegas has hosted recently, including the 2023 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, a Formula One Grand Prix race, and the NBA’s In-Season Tournament.  

Nevada will become the 11th state to have hosted the Super Bowl once the game kicks off in Sin City.

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