Las Vegas Facing the Other Side of the Coin

Whatever the starting point, most residents found the new Las Vegas less satisfactory as a residence. California tourists and promoters, Florida hotel executives, crowds of footloose workers, and pragmatic management experts had seemingly converted the community into a commodity for vacationers and a way station for transients.

When people began to discern in Las Vegas not the easy-going old West but some sort of makeshift combination of Hollywood and Miami beach, those who regarded themselves as natives sensed that they had been overrun. Often losing sight of their own contributions to the malaise that affected the city, Las Vegans wondered what had happened to their peaceful desert home.

Fast-paced urbanization was partly to blame for the social problems faced by southern Nevadans, but something even more insidious seemed to be at work. High rates of crime, youthful delinquency, drug and alcohol usage, suicide, juvenile venereal disease, divorce, and job absenteeism all pointed to deep-seated problems of 'personal and social organization, alienation, and anomie', symptoms that would not disappear as growth slowed down.

As Las Vegas became a national case study of social dysfunction, residents fear about the community seemed to be confirmed. The transience and values generated by the resort industry appeared to be taking a toll on permanent citizens. Legal casino gambling provided a comfortable standard of living for most of the population, but it was undermining the residential city many inhabitants sought to build.

Living with chance and change was perhaps the fate of war western cities like Las Vegas, but both natives and newcomers found it difficult to feel at ease in the desert town. Las Vegans ultimately came to terms with their unusual city in a dualistic fashion. On the one hand, they insinuated themselves from the influence of gaming and tourism by turning inward and away from the problems of the gambling capital.

They developed a culture of privacy by building residential subdivisions, traveling in automobiles, and espousing an individualistic credo. This response helped to distance residents from dangers perceived in the resort and permitted them to feel that they had more control over their fate, even as they dwelled in a place given over to tourists.

On the other hand, Las Vegans denied that their hometown was really abnormal and at the same time strove to redefine the city as something more than gaming resort. Las Vegans thus became committed builders and defenders of the town at the same time that they tried as private citizens to keep their distance from the resort city.

Last Updated2008-10-30
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