Las Vegas is one of the world’s most prominent adult entertainment hot-spots (it literally bills itself as “The Entertainment Capital of the World”). It’s like a Disneyland for grown-ups. Located within the greater Mojave Desert, it’s the most populated city in the American state of Nevada.
Known as “Sin City”, Las Vegas was undoubtedly given that name with good reason. Adults from across the globe head there all year round to gamble their hard-earned bucks on bandits and gaming tables, drink copious amounts of alcohol, ogle half-naked beautiful people, spend vast amounts of money shopping and completely indulge themselves.
But there’s also a genuinely dark side to Las Vegas. The city’s growth and development was heavily influenced by money from organized crime – but everyone knows that – and while the mob are (for the most part) long gone, it still has a very murky side to it.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the lesser known, more unpleasant things about Sin City – some of which are just a little unsettling, others of which are absolutely terrifying. Here are fifteen dark facts you didn’t know about Las Vegas.
15. An Entire Community Of People Live Under It
Las Vegas obviously has a bustling surface, with hotels, casinos, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, strip clubs and all kinds of establishments open for 24 hours every day. 40 million people visit every year, making it an incredibly popular tourist destination – but there’s also a hidden, darker world functioning beneath the city’s neon-lit streets.
In the city’s 200+ miles of flood tunnels, more than 1,000 homeless people have shacked up, creating a rather tragic – if not unique – community unto itself. It’s dark and dreary, there’s a major risk of disease, highly poisonous spiders lurk in the shadows, drug use is almost universal down there, and people carry weapons in abundance, but the people who live in them have actually made homes of the tunnels – going as far as furnishing their particular living spaces with considerable care, with beds, chairs, ornaments and shelves filled with their belongings. While it’s an upsetting thought, there’s a certain charm to that.
14. Atomic Tourism
Las Vegas has never been home to the atomic bomb or any nuclear tests but, a mere 100 kilometres (65 miles) away to the north, there is a nuclear test site where more than one-hundred nuclear tests were carried out in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, Las Vegas wasn’t the tourist honeypot it is today, but there were casinos and tourism was starting to grow – but some tourists arrived there for a rather unexpected reason.
Las Vegas took advantage of the nearby nuclear tests and seized the opportunity to use them to bring in more tourists – and the concept of atomic tourism became a thing overnight. Restaurant owners began theming their establishments around the nuclear tests, Las Vegas showgirls began wearing clothing and hairstyles that resembled mushroom clouds, and the roofs of casinos were populated with test-viewing parties who watched the distant blasts and felt the trembling impact.
In spite of attempts to schedule the tests around the weather in a manner that would ensure the radioactive fallout would be blown in the opposite direction, that wasn’t always the case, and there’s a strong argument that the tests had a negative impact on the health of people in Las Vegas. Atomic tourism wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – who would’ve thought it?!
13. The Mississippi Of The West
You may have heard of the Jim Crow laws – they were local and state laws in the Southern states of America that enforced racial segregation following the Reconstruction Era in the late 19th century. They were passed by white legislatures in Democratic-dominated states and continued to be enforced until 1965. They were, perhaps, most strongly associated with the state of Mississippi.
In the late 1950s, Las Vegas was rather shamefully known as “The Mississippi of the West” due to how harsh its own segregation laws were. Gamblers complained about the racially mixed atmosphere, so a series of laws were passed that forced the African-American population of Las Vegas to live on the West side of Las Vegas, in a dank area of dirt roads that was far removed from the glitz and glamour downtown. Jobs for African-Americans were hard to come by, their tents and wooden shacks lacked basic amenities like running water, and even performers such as Nat King Cole and Lena Horne had to stay on the West side of the city and use the back entrances of casinos. It was only when the Rat Pack refused to play in the Sands Casino unless Sammy Davis Jr. was allowed to stay in the hotel with them that cracks started to show and, in 1960, the segregation laws were scrapped.
12. It’s A Child “Trafficking” Hub
Las Vegas thrives on s*xuality, of that there is no doubt. There are strip clubs galore and you can’t walk for ten seconds down the strip without being handed call girl cards or seeing a vehicle drive past with a huge picture of a scantily clad lady on it. Heck, you might even see a vehicle drive past with a glass cage on the back with an actual scantily clad lady inside. And while prostitution is actually illegal in Las Vegas, it’s also quite obviously going on in abundance.
Everybody knows all of that, however – and, furthermore, the sex trafficking of adults is known to be a thing. But what isn’t so well known about Las Vegas is that, sadly, it’s also a major child s*x trafficking hub. Child sex trafficking is a huge, horrible problem that occurs all around the world (as the above image says, a child is forced into the s*x trade every two minutes), but Las Vegas really is as bad as anywhere for it. Since 1994, there have been well over 2,000 children exploited through sex trafficking in the city.
11. The Tourists Behave Appallingly
In spite of the fact that Las Vegas invites people to partake in numerous bad habits – gambling, drinking and so forth – and in spite of what movies like The Hangover might suggest about the people who visit Las Vegas, in order to afford to be there, you generally have to possess a decent amount of hard-earned money. This, in turn, suggests a certain level of social standing, so you would, therefore, expect there to be an acceptable level of class in terms of the average tourist’s behaviour in Sin City – but that’s not really the case at all!
Granted, people go to Las Vegas for a wild time, but workers in the city have told stories about things they’ve seen that would make your skin crawl. Tourists have smeared faeces all over their hotel rooms, a man let a woman vomit into his hands and smelt it before making out with the woman in question, a man beat his wife in the middle of a casino for not winning on a slot machine, a man peed in the middle of a busy road, and a naked woman with a low-hanging labia twerked on stage, making said labia “swing”. These types of occurrences are said to happen daily. Stay classy, Sin City!
10. High Suicide Rate
On the whole, Las Vegas seems like a happy place – on the surface, at least. It’s a place where people go to let their hair down and enjoy themselves. People play card games, chill around swimming pools, ride roller coasters and get a little tipsy, so it will probably surprise you to learn that Sin City has one of the highest suicide rates in the United States.
To be precise, the suicide rate in Las Vegas is about three times that of the national rate. According to one study by a University of Nevada researcher, those who visit Las Vegas are twice as likely to commit suicide than if they had stayed at home. Some hotels actually have specialized cleaners they can bring in to clean blood from their hotel rooms – suicide in Las Vegas is that common (thanks largely due to people losing silly amounts of money in the casinos).
9. The Extent To Which Hotels Will Go To Make Money
It goes without saying that Las Vegas is all about money. The casinos in Las Vegas hotels are infamously laid out in a way that makes it difficult to find the exits, with no doors in sight, while there are no windows or clocks to help gamblers work out what time of day it is.
But there’s one money-making method that is really quite disturbing – and it relates to the last point about the high suicide rate in Sin City. When hotels discover that some poor soul has died in one of their rooms, they relocate the body. Why? Well because if the authorities discover a corpse in a hotel room, a mandatory quarantine period of two weeks has to happen for that room, which is two weeks of potential revenue that the hotel won’t be bringing in. Bodies are, therefore, moved elsewhere on the resort’s premises where no quarantine is required.
8. High Murder Rate
As a general rule, Las Vegas is considered to be a safe city and you shouldn’t be put off going. Sticking to lit areas – in particular on the very busy strip – should ensure your safety. However, the strip isn’t the only area of Las Vegas – there are some rough areas and North Las Vegas, for example, was ranked among the top ten most dangerous neighbourhoods in the United States in 2010, as it had a violent crime rate that was 112 percent higher than the national average.
Las Vegas also has a high murder rate – double that of Los Angeles and about 50% higher than New York City – and violent crime in general, such as assault and r*pe, is also far higher than most other cities in the United States. Again, don’t let this put you off going, as tourist areas are generally as safe as houses – just don’t head off the beaten track or into any of the less desirable areas if you know what’s good for you.
7. Casino Owners’ Kids Being Kidnapped
Las Vegas casino owners are some of the richest people in the United States. That makes them very obvious targets for criminals who want a share of their millions, but some of the crimes that have been carried out in attempts to acquire those millions have been even lower than you might imagine.
There have been a number of instances of casino owners’ children being the targets of kidnapping plots, so that they can be held to ransom. Two of the most high-profile examples of this include Steve Wynn’s daughter Kevyn and Benny Binion’s son Ted – Steve Wynn being the CEO of the company that owns the likes of Treasure Island and the Bellagio, and Benny Binion being the man who established the Horseshoe Casino, home of the World Series of Poker.
Kevyn was actually kidnapped, but was found safe – albeit tied up – in a car at Las Vegas airport. Ted, however, was never kidnapped, as a co-worker of plotter Kenny Shumate who was dragged into the plot went straight to his dad with the information, which resulted in Shumate being shot dead. Don’t mess with a cowboy mob boss.
6. The High Schools Resemble Prisons
One of the reasons why the crime rate in and around Las Vegas is so high could be the fact that residents are seemingly nurtured for a life of crime by the very establishments they are educated in – because the high schools in Sin City (or at least some of them) look more like high-security prisons than places of learning!
With Nevada having the thirteenth highest incarceration rate in the United States, could the fact that Las Vegas’ schools are windowless, overcrowded cinder block buildings that have alternating freezing and sweltering temperatures have something to do with it?
5. It’s Rife With Ghosts
When you think of ghosts and hauntings, you tend to think of locations like old remote houses and castles, gloomy woods, abandoned hospitals and mental asylums, and spooky graveyards. What you don’t tend to think of are brightly-lit casinos and hotels in immensely lively tourist spots – so you’ll probably be surprised to learn that Las Vegas is supposedly rife with ghosts and spectral activity.
To mention just a few; the Circus Circus hotel and casino is said to be haunted by a mother and her child, as well as three people who were killed in the kitchen. The Excalibur hotel and casino is said to house a ghost who whispers in your ear if you wander its corridors alone. The ghost of mobster Bugsy Siegel is said to haunt the Flamingo hotel and casino. The Hilton hotel and casino is said to be haunted by several deceased former performers and taps are said to regularly turn themselves on. And there are many more examples – to the extent that Zak Bagans (of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures fame) has a museum dedicated to Las Vegas hauntings in the city.
4. The Heart Attack Grill
While this may seem like a “fun” idea that, to some people, doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as dark as the other entries in this article, the fact is it really, really is quite disturbing as a concept. In Las Vegas, there is a restaurant that is genuinely named the Heart Attack Grill – an establishment that actively encourages and praises gluttony and obesity.
It’s not “just a name” either – a visitor to the Heart Attack Grill really did once suffer a heart attack while eating a gigantic 8,000 calorie burger at the famous joint. Moreover, it actually allows patrons who weigh more than 350 lbs to eat all they want for free. Anyone who can’t eat all of the food they are served can expect to be spanked by the scantily clad waitresses (who are actually dressed as sexy nurses).
3. Feeding The Homeless Was Banned
Over the years, some pretty strange things have been banned in Las Vegas; Hula hooping, megaphones, vuvuzelas, having pets on the strip at certain times of the day, certain bath salts, house rentals of less than thirty days, hip-hop concerts and Paris Hilton, for example. None of those, however, were as disturbing as completely banning the feeding of homeless people in the city.
In 2010, Las Vegas’ city council did indeed implement a ruling that said feeding homeless people in public parks was banned. And that wasn’t merely limited to handing a sandwich over to a hungry homeless person – this ruling also prevented charities from setting up mobile food kitchens. A major issue of the ban came in the form of determining exactly who was really homeless and who just appeared to be so. Eventually, the ban was ruled to be unconstitutional by a federal judge.
2. Mobsters Still Have A Hand In A Lot Of The Casino-Related Activities
As we’ve already mentioned (and as you undoubtedly already knew) the Mafia were heavily involved in the growth of Las Vegas. At the end of World War II, they started to take notice of the potential for financial gain in the city, with Bugsy Siegel and Meye Lansky running a large chunk of it, starting in 1946 with the Flamingo – but you’d think they were long gone, right? Wrong!
Mobsters do still have a hand in a lot of the casino-related activities in Sin City, but they’re a lot less hands-on and take more of a backseat role these days. Rather than actually managing the casinos, it is believed they now run the organisations that handle the casinos from behind-the-scenes. Other activities the mob still partake in within Las Vegas’ city limits include loansharking, extortion and burglaries. However, they certainly no longer have the same foothold they once did on the city.
1. It Has Links To 9/11
This is really nothing more than a conspiracy theory, but it was conceived with good reason – and the theory in question is that Las Vegas had links to the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September the 11th in 2001.
The reason in question for the conspiracy theory is simple: it was discovered that a number of the hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks had spent a considerable amount of time in Sin City in the days leading up to the attacks themselves. Retrospectively, their motives for being there were obviously treated with suspicion.
It is believed by some that their meeting in Las Vegas might even have involved some form of government “contact”. This particular aspect of the theory has considerable weight behind it when you realize that they completely disappeared from radar once they reached the city.
More interestingly, the four men who visited Las Vegas were specifically the four pilots of the hijacked planes. This would certainly suggest a clear connection to the attacks.
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