Las Vegas, Nevada, is a popular tourist spot and attracted over 40 million visitors per year between 2014 to 2019, but many of those tourists probably didn’t realize that their visit to the famous Las Vegas strip wasn’t in Las Vegas at all but in Paradise, Nevada.
The Las Vegas Valley in Clark County, Nevada, has three incorporated cities — Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson. The remaining areas are unincorporated, which means these areas follow the laws of the county, state, and nation, and not those of a city. The Las Vegas Valley has six unincorporated towns named Spring Valley, Sunrise Manor, Enterprise, Whitney, Winchester, and Paradise, and their taxes go to the county. One of these towns, the town of Paradise, holds what many associate Las Vegas with, the Las Vegas Strip and its many attractions.
Paradise not only has the Las Vegas Strip in its town limits, but also McCarran International Airport, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV), and even the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sign. But how did Paradise end up being the spot for all the major tourist attractions, restaurants, hotels, and casinos along the Las Vegas strip?
The Las Vegas Strip originated on a three-mile desert road outside the city limits of Las Vegas. The first casino was constructed in 1931, and others followed as the area grew into a gambling center. Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky opened the Flamingo in 1946, followed by the Desert Inn in 1950.
In that same year, the mayor of Las Vegas, Ernie Cragin, wanted to annex the growing area to shore up the city’s tax base. Executives of the casinos along the strip, led by Gus Greenbaum of the Flamingo, were against the move and lobbied the commissioners of Clark County to give the area town status. This would have required the city to get approval from the county commissioners to annex the area.
The commission sided with the casino executives and granted the creation of an unincorporated town called Paradise, which was named after an already established area there called Paradise Valley, in December 1950. The new town was one mile wide and four miles long. A month later, the town was expanded to include all residential areas of Paradise Valley, growing it to 54 square miles.
But because the town spanned multiple school districts and there was a state law against that, the county commissioners in 1951 voted to split the town into Town A and Town B, thereby separating the school districts. In 1953, Town A was renamed Winchester, and Town B was renamed Paradise. The town was in danger of being annexed again in 1975 when a Nevada law would have incorporated both Winchester and Paradise into Las Vegas, but it was struck down as unconstitutional by the Nevada Supreme Court.
Paradise, Nevada, continues to be the town behind the Las Vegas Strip despite ongoing overtures from the City of Las Vegas about wanting to annex it. But the taxes are lower in Paradise, and Clark County probably won’t let this gold mine of an unincorporated city get away.