Who Created The First Casino? Were They Gamblers?
People all around the world have been betting and taking risks with their belongings and money for as long as one can remember. Whether it was betting on who could build the biggest fire or taking a chance on a crop for that season, gambling can be found throughout history.
It can clearly be seen in recorded accounts from the Chinese dating back as far as 2300 B.C. to stories from Ancient Greece to the time of Napoleon.
This makes it difficult to determine the origins of gambling itself, but luckily we do know which people were the first to have a casino, as it is known by modern standards.
The casino as we know it today did not appear in our history until the early modern period, in the 1600s, which might seem like quite a late start for such a popular enterprise. Since then, we have seen the popularity of casinos rise and fall to extend into the online industries that we know and love today.
The Origin of Casinos
To understand where casinos came from, who started them, and how they used them, we must first determine the origin of the word “casino” itself. This word is of Italian origin, denoting a building that is specifically built for pleasure.
Despite its roots, when taken directly, the word “casino” means a noisy environment, while a “casino” is a gaming house and is the meaning we use today.
The pleasures catered for in these buildings included civic town functions and gatherings with music, dancing, and gambling. These Italian parties were the beginning of what we now know as the modern casino.
The word can also be traced to German and Spanish origins, though in those languages, it literally means “a mess”. The term later took on an even broader meaning, including any public buildings where enjoyable activities and even sports took place.
It should be noted that some casinos did not actually include gambling at the beginning of their use. One example of this is the Hanko Casino in Finland, which was never used for games in any way. This space was used for large public meetings as a theater, and now, it is a restaurant.
The Pioneer Establishment
The oldest, and arguably the first casino in the world was the Casinò di Venezia or the Casino of Venice. Established in 1638, it is now located on the Grand Canal at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi. With classic Venetian renaissance architecture and styles, this is a casino that can still be enjoyed by visitors of the city.
There is evidence that the building was actually constructed in 1509 as a residence for the elite. The palace was later transformed into the casino that it is today, with very few changes being made to the structure throughout its history.
This establishment has maintained its place as the oldest gaming house in history, regardless of the definition or origin of the word used.
Even though the casino has been an important part of Venetian history, it has been said that the casino throughout history was impoverishing the wealthy and corrupting the entire city. This is a claim made by the municipality of Venice, though their attempts to thwart the gambling of citizens have never been effective.
The Italians were the ones that first began using the term “casino” and having the types of gatherings that would allow for gambling and the holding of what was essentially a party. Though they did gamble, the Italians used the casinos for purposes that were broader than what you would see in a modern casino.
As there are two meanings to the word in Italian, we need to also examine what we would consider a casino in the modern sense and what the Italians would recognise as their first “casinò.”
The creators of this first gaming house were the Venetian elite and the municipality itself. Together they wanted to control the gambling in the city and also take advantage of having a high-stakes house-favoured establishment.
There is not much information known about the first owners or managers of the first casino, but it can be assumed that they were wealthy or were making a lot of money on the venture as evidenced by the grandeur of the building and the long history of the business.
Historic Build Up
The casinos that we know today have not always been popular or accepted, and many of them didn’t even host the games that we are familiar with today. Some of the most notable challenges that casinos have faced to become what they are today are as follows:
USA - At the beginning of the 20th century, gaming in the U.S was outlawed by social reformers and state legislation. As the country grew and more social changes were made, the ban on gambling remained until 1931. It was first legalised in Las Vegas, Nevada followed with the expansion and growth of casinos throughout the country after that.
England - The English history of gambling can be traced back to Elizabethan times, though they are most well known in the industry for their contribution of the game Hazard, which can be noted as an inspiration for many dice games as well as modern poker games.
France – In the time of Emperor Napoleon, gambling began to grow in popularity. The Emperor himself enjoyed playing Blackjack and Twenty-One. Other games, such as Roulette, can also observed throughout history to have been played in France, even if that is not where they originally came from.
The Oldest Casinos in the World
The history and the life in some of the world’s oldest casinos can still be enjoyed today. These long-standing establishments often host traditional and modern games alike and are known for their impeccable architecture and buzzing atmosphere.
Casino de Monte Carlo
You may recognise the Casino de Monte Carlo from movies such as Casino Royale and Ocean’s Twelve. This French establishment was constructed in 1856 with a reputation and history that still make it one of the most preferred gambling sites for the wealthiest players in the world.
In there, you can play classic games such as Baccarat, Craps and Poker, as well as slot machines.
This particular casino is also known as being one of the first venues to expand and offer more than just gambling. It is now the home to a wide variety of entertainment options that include concert halls, restaurants, and the on-site theatre.
The Casino Wiesbaden was built in 1810, though the venue can be traced back to Roman times. This is the oldest gambling house in Germany and is one of the few of this age that are still operating.
Famous for having 180 slot machines, this is a gaming house that also offers classic table games. With a mixture of modern and traditional games, this is certainly a storied establishment.
It should be noted that this is one of the few casinos that has been in the same location and serving the same purpose for the last 200 years.
Crockford’s Club is located in London and was officially established in 1828 as a gentleman’s club, though it is said to have housed gambling in secret long before then.
This is an elite, members-only casino that offers more luxurious gambling than most of other establishments around the world. The richest and most influential in British society gather here to play and socialise with rumors circulating that some of the biggest political decisions in Britain’s history have been made at this establishment.
As this establishment caters to the wealthy, it means that this casino has been designed with sophistication and the possibility for private rooms and high stakes gambling to accommodate for the desires and playing wishes of the clientele.
A Modern Look At The Casinò di Venezia
The Casinò di Venezia has been at the heart of entertainment and gambling in Venice throughout its history, a fact that has not changed up to this day. The location, the décor and, of course, the games all add to the experience that can be had at the establishment.
It should be noted that this casino is now split between two locations, the original Ca’ Vendramin Calergi and at Ca’ Noghera. At the first location a jacket is required for gambling at the tables in the gaming rooms, while the other location does not require men to wear them, too informal clothing is not accepted either.
You can enjoy the gambling as well as a meal at the on-site Wagner Restaurant that is located within a Party Room, which also has space for service by the Grand Canal.
The games offered at the casino include: French Roulette, Fair Roulette, Chemin de Fer, Blackjack, Caribbean Poker, Baccarat, and slot machines. There are also international tournaments held at this world-famous casino. This establishment has grown so much that they also even offer online gambling services.
For the first casino with a record to prove its origin, the Casinò di Venezia has never lost its sophisticated and pleasant atmosphere or gaming nature taken from both the “pleasurable” and “gaming house” definitions of the word “casino” itself.