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History of the Casino: How Did It Start

Having fun is an important part of life and is proven to benefit our health. Every day individuals are innovating, creating and experimenting in search for fun and happiness. Bars, amusement parks, movie theatres, and of course, casinos are some of the most popular options chosen by people to spend their free time. Modern casinos are usually bright, flashy, loud, colorful, fun and entice players with their big jackpots. But they were not always like that. Continue reading below to learn more about the history of the casino.


How Did It All Start

Casinos are a much older institution than most people think. The modern word casino comes from the Italian word Cazino, which is used to describe the luxurious country houses where Venetian nobles enjoyed gambling privately, but the story of gambling dates back thousands of years.

The truth is that nobody knows exactly when gambling first appeared, however, there are recordings from as early as 2300 B.C. Ancient China. The human being has always shown a certain tendency and even an obsession with gambling as a way of fun.  Evidence of the activity can be found in most societies throughout history, from Ancient Rome and Greece to medieval England. History is filled with examples of gambling in recordings, books, and art.


What Games Were Played

Today, we may primarily associate casinos with games like Roulette, Blackjack, Baccarat, and Poker, but at this time these games were still not invented. Players could instead choose different types of lotteries, dice, board, as well as basic card games.  

Let’s take Ancient Greece for example. This is a land filled with philosophers and great thinkers. Gambling was so widespread that authorities had to take measures to control the activities. One of the most popular games was Checkers, also known as “tilia” at the time. Heads and tails, as well as dice, were also quite popular in the time.

Keno was a popular game in Ancient China. It was played with cards with numbers from 1-80. Players could choose numbers by circling them. After people placed their bets a lottery was drawn to identify the winning numbers. The original name of the game back then was “white pigeon ticket”. The first playing cards date back to the ninth century AD have also been found in China, however, scholars are still unsure of the rules that the games used at the time.

All classes participated in gambling activities in Ancient Rome. There were two games which were quite popular at the time: games with only dice and games with dice and a board. The outcome depended on the number on the dice, and when played with a board, what pieces were moved by the throw. Early versions of backgammon were also played by the Romans. The game of brigands” was also amongst the most popular games. The game was played between two people with rules similar to modern chess. It is generally accepted, however, as military tactics game.

The oldest existing game which is still played in casinos today is Baccarat. The history of the game starts as early as the beginning of the 15th century when it is known to have migrated from Italy to France. The next few hundred years saw the birth of the other popular games we know today.


First Casinos

The first recorded establishment in Europe which meets the criteria for a modern casino appeared in Venice, Italy in 1638. It was called Ridotto and was regulated by the Great Council of Venice. It served to control gambling during the carnival season. From that moment casinos started to emerge. By the late 19thcentury continental Europe was seeing a boom in the gambling industry and in the appearance of glamorous casinos, like the iconic Casino de Monte-Carlo and the Kurhaus in Baden-Baden, Germany. These establishments were built to suit the extravagant taste of the upper class and are still magnificent to this day.

The early gambling establishments in the US were called “saloons.” They were found usually in the west and were a place where travelers could find company to talk, drink and gamble with. Authorities, however, became quite strict with gambling regulations, resulting in more informal gambling, and even prohibition which lasted from 1910 to 1930. After the ban was lifted casinos started to appear throughout the country and the famous Las Vegas Strip started to appear.


The Birth of Las Vegas

When we talk about gambling and casinos today, most people imagine the bright and loud Las Vegas Strip filled with luxurious hotels and large casinos. The first casinos in the city appeared after the gambling prohibition fell in 1930 and by the early 50’s Las Vegas was already known as a true gambling paradise. Today Las Vegas sees more than 39 million visitors a year.


Online Casinos

The birth of online casinos came with the implementation of gaming software in physical casinos in the 70s, which gradually changed the traditional mechanisms of slot machines, adding graphics and other functions. In 1994, Antigua and Barbuda signed a treaty that granted official licenses for companies who want to provide online gambling services. Since that day, the online gaming industry has not stopped growing. Online games are still constantly evolving, and offer professional players and the general public new and fun alternatives.