Why is Vegas Called Sin City?

Last year, a group of researchers at Wallet Hub launched a study to determine the most sinful city in America. The group was to use seven determiners: vanity, anger, jealousy, laziness, greed, lust and extravagance. Predictably, Las Vegas was ranked first out of 182 cities. Vermont was ranked last.

But how do you measure a city’s level of sin? Every state has a city or location where vices are rife after all.

A bit of History

The nickname “Sin City” can be traced back to 1906. The Strip didn’t exist back then. The Fremont area was a small town and the Train Depot had just been built. A host of small shops, mainly welding shops were the biggest businesses in the area. Gambling was illegal but it was not impossible to find a place you could play a game of chance.

After years of unauthorized gambling halls, the casino industry was legalized in 1931. What followed was a slew of brothels and unmonitored prostitution halls in Block 16 and 17 for years. The brothels were mainly run by legally-operating liquor stores, hence their ability to thrive without disruptions from authorities.

These blocks and their businesses are thought to be the source of Las Vegas’ “Sin City” nickname. While high casinos, liquor stores, and brothels were the sources of Vegas’ notorious alias, there are more reasons why it has retained its name to date.


Like vanity, it’s hard to account for greed. However, Wallet Hub based greed on the number of casinos in the city per capita. The Strip alone features 40+ high bonus bets casinos. Clark County is home to at least 166 casinos. For a County of roughly 2 million people, that’s a high number of gambling establishments.

Of course, there are lots of tourists in Vegas all-year-round. But then again, 87% of Nevada’s revenues come from the 166+ casinos in Clark County. With the state earning $9.7 billion as taxes from people who visit Vegas to win gambling money, it’s crystal clear Vegas has a greed problem.

Shockingly, Vegas is not the greediest city in the US according to Wallet. Mississippi, which has got only two casinos ranked first. Apart from the number of casinos, the research group also used data about donations and cities with the highest levels of problematic gamblers.


Cambridge dictionary defines lust as having “a very strong sexual desire.” And true, Las Vegas is lustful, at least based on the data captured by multiple research groups. Vegas is also accommodating to people from all walks of life, something not every city is open to.

Judging by the number of strip clubs, nightclubs and other adult-themed resorts in the city, saying Vegas is a lustful city is not farfetched. Surprisingly, the city has been trying to move away from its sinful ways by launching family-friendly theme parks.

Prostitution has also been illegal throughout the city for years now. Technically, prostitution is legal in Nevada but not in the city of Las Vegas and Clark County as a whole.

To determine Vegas’ rank in lust, Wallet Hub measured the level of lust in Vegas by accounting for the number of teen births, amount of Tinder users and the number of entertainment joints per capita in cities.


Vanity refers to possessing excessive admiration for one’s self. To evaluate the trait, Wallet Hub searched Google for cities with the highest rank for the keywords, “Top 5 Plastic Surgeries.” Vegas ranked in the top 5 cities.

Of course, plastic surgeries only reflect the level of pride in physical appearance. So, is Vegas as sinful when it comes to personal pride and other unseen traits related to vanity? This can only be inferred by examining the kind of people you find in Nevada.

In the strip clubs are mainly models and revelers who splash tons of cash to have a good time. In the malls, people are usually buying expensive items and a lot of excesses. Again, this is something people do all over the world. For this reason, vanity alone can’t be used to determine Vegas’ level of lust.


Greedy, vain people also tend to be extravagant—a trait no one can take from the city of Vegas. The Las Vegas Sun estimates the average visitor in the city spends $821 per visit. All year-round, a total of 42 million visitors spend $35.5 billion in Southern Nevada. In no other city do visitors spend as much money as Vegas.

Most of the extravaganza is centered on the city’s night clubs and casinos—a fact the city has been trying to change. While Vegas is proud of its Southern businesses, the city is on a mission to diversify its economy.

The city earned its first major sports franchise in 2016 when the NHL approved Vegas to become home for the Golden Knights. The city also has a minor MLB team now and is on the works to bring the Oakland Raiders in sin city. Scores of other developments are also being done to expand the city’s revenue sources.

Laziness and Anger

Vegas is hardly either of these vices. Or is it? Crime in Vegas is 30% higher than the countrywide average. It’s also 11% higher than the state average and an equivalent of 9.76 crimes per 100,000 people. Property crime is the worst kinds of vice in the city followed by violent crime and general assault.

When it comes to laziness, Vegas is the opposite of lazy. Still, it’s not without its stories of sloth and inactivity. Ever heard about the mole people of the city? People who gambled all their money, drug addicts and others live in the tunnels of Vegas.

In total, the mole people form several thousands of homeless people who live off collecting money dropped by revelers. Of course, there are more cities with homelessness problems and obesity issues, but Vegas’ violence and sloth problems contribute to its globally acknowledged sin city nickname.

In Conclusion

When studies are done, Las Vegas doesn’t always top the list of the most sinful cities in the world. However, there’s no city synonymous with the words sin city than Vegas. Its history of mobs, gambling when it was still illegal countrywide and prostitution, earned it the nickname.

These days though, there are many reasons besides gambling why Vegas is a sinful city. Extravagant tourists always flocking the city, vainness, lust, greed and high crime rates all contribute to the title.