History of the Land-Based Casinos

Gambling has been a part of human preoccupation since antiquity. There have been records of gambling even prior to 2000 BC in ancient China and India. Every civilization since then has had some form of gambling or the other. Despite this heritage, casinos as we know them today are less than 500 years old.

They originated in Italy as gambling clubs in the 17th century. These private clubs were organized by wealthy Italian aristocrats and were called ridotti. The meeting places were summer houses or small villas in the country side that were called casa. The word casino derives from casa. Eventually the less well of sections of society got involved in the ridotti and the casinos began to mushroom all over Italy. Then gambling in Italy was illegal and even looked down by some sections of society. Yet casinos became very popular and it was a matter of time before they became legal.

The claim and fame of being the first legal casino goes to Casino di Venezia. This was a ridotti opened in the city of Venice in 1638. The Casino di Venezia was a four story building that hosted various card games and allowed anyone who had the money to gamble. It was refurbished and reopened in the 20th century and is one of the main attractions of Venice today.

The success of the Casino di Venezia led to ridotti type casinos opening in other European cities. But these were not the architecturally awesome buildings that we today associate with casinos. Such casinos started being built in the 18th century. The first of these extravagant casinos was the Baden-Baden which opened in 1748 in the German city of Baden-Baden. The Baden-Baden Casino was a magnificent place with massive pillars and a plush lawn. It was as much a tourist attraction as a place to gamble. Though France became the center for casino gambling at that time, the next big casino opened in Monaco in Monte Carlo. This was the Monte Carlo Casino, which opened in 1863. It still remains one of the most popular gambling destinations in the world.

In the United States the first gambling places were saloons, which began as small dinghy rooms. The first saloon to operate in the United States was on the border of Colorado and Utah and was started in 1822. The saloon, named Brown’s Saloon, catered to the miners working in the local mines. Most of the saloons were established in trading cities like San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans. The traders would meet there after the day’s work and gamble and drink together. Two other early centers of gambling in the United States were along the Mississippi River on steam powered boats and in the saloons of the Wild West.

Then in the early 20th century gambling was outlawed in the United States and gambling activity went underground. However, in 1931 Nevada legalized gambling because gambling was going on any way and the state saw no point in losing an opportunity for tax revenue. Las Vegas was born. Over time the casinos became modern edifices attached to hotels and resorts and provided a self contained vacation. In 1978 Atlantic City followed suit and became the second gambling destination in the United States. Today Macau, which is modeling itself on Las Vegas, has overtaken Las Vegas in gambling revenue generated. Gambling has come back to China, perhaps where it first began.