Gambling has been around for centuries, and is probably as old as the earliest games designed for entertainment. It has been used as a way to settle disputes, to provide entertainment, and to generate income for impoverished states. Quite a lot has been written about this, but not much about the origins of the first casinos. In this section we will outline the history of the casino as we know it today.
The earliest recorded evidence of the first casino dates back to 1726 in Venice, Italy. These public gaming houses, known as “casini” or little houses, were introduced to provide the Venetian nobility with a place to confer with business clients. Here they would drink, eat, gamble, and indulge in other debaucheries. It was here that casinos came to be associated with vice and dissolution.
The popularity of gambling houses quickly spread to the rest of Europe, and were eventually legalized and legitimized by various European aristocrats and noblemen. Casinos were patronized exclusively by men during this period, and only those with wealth, power, and prestige were allowed to enter. At this time, casinos also earned the reputation as places where fortunes could be won or lost in a single roll of the dice or spin of the wheel.
Towards the end of the 19th century, casinos were prevalent in every major European nation. In Monaco, the world-famous and most glamorous casino in the world, the Monte Carlo, was opened in 1860. In England, the wealthy elite had introduced private rooms, where an invitation was needed and there were no limits to the amounts that could be wagered.
In 1931, after several attempts to criminalize gambling for good, the state of Nevada was persuaded to legalize gambling in order to curb underground casinos and the proliferation of illegal betting. Although contended by some, it is widely believed that Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel founded Las Vegas and opened the first casino there. Now Vegas is known as the entertainment capital of the world, and is doing much to shed its image as a city of sin and vice. For anyone who has been to Vegas in the past 10 years, these attempts are immediately apparent.
Today’s modern casinos are a far cry from the originals. They have evolved in accordance with the growing demands of gamblers and pleasure-seekers around the globe. The facilities are often plush and resplendent. The casinos are sleek, modern, and aesthetically designed to give the customer the impression he has entered another world.