Why Is Las Vegas Called “Sin City”?

I think “Sin City” is the best nickname for an American city, and it’s certainly the most accurate one.

So why is Las Vegas called “Sin City”? The short answer is that Las Vegas is tolerant to various forms of “adult entertainment”, mainly prostitution and strip clubs. While prostitution isn’t legal in the city of Las Vegas, it is legal in the state of Nevada. People can find brothels in the areas just outside of Las Vegas. Also, the Las Vegas police don’t tend to bother street walkers in certain parts of Las Vegas (where prostitution is illegal), if the prostitutes and their customers don’t loiter too long.

You might ask, if prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, then why is Las Vegas called “Sin City” and other cities in Nevada are not? That’s mainly because Las Vegas is more famous than towns like Reno, Nevada, and more people flock to Las Vegas than anywhere else in Nevada.


In a larger sense, of course, Las Vegas is known as “Sin City” because of more than just prostitution. Because Las Vegas is permissive towards other so-called “sinful” pastimes like gambling, certain Americans look at Las Vegas as a kind of modern “Sodom and Gomorrah”, with locals and tourists engaged in immoral behavior. Las Vegas is a place where people can get away from the everyday and have fun. That “fun” provides a thrill and is usually expensive, but most satisfied vacationers coming from Las Vegas would say sin is in the eye of the beholder.

The History of Sin City

The officials of Las Vegas have sometimes run from that image and sometimes embraced the “Sin City” moniker. For instance, when Las Vegas first began attracting corporate investments to build the mega-casinos of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Sin City Chamber of Commerce tried to market Las Vegas as more “family friendly”. Some Vegas old-timers and hardcore gamblers complained that Las Vegas was becoming “Disneyfied” or getting a “Disney image”.

In the last ten years, though, Las Vegas has begun to advertise itself as a place to go to commit a few sins. It’s famous and successful ad campaign was “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. That Las Vegas slogan became an American catchphrase. In fact, there was even a Hollywood movie in the last year or two called
What Happens in Vegas, continuing Hollywood’s long love affair with Sin City.

That brings us to the final reason that Las Vegas is known as “Sin City”. The American pop culture and entertainment industry have glorified Las Vegas as a capital of sin and a mecca of greed, a city of bright lights and crazy dreams where anything can happen and everything is for sell. From movies like
Bugsy to Casino to Sin City — which actually takes place in the western river metropolis of Basin City — the names “Las Vegas” and “Sin City” have been invoked as a place where life is large and action takes place.

So there’s a whole list of reasons that Las Vegas is called Sin City. Taking all those reasons into account, I would say Sin City is the most apt, coolest and all-around best nickname for an American city.

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