The history of casinos — when and how gambling establishments emerged

If you think gambling is a new phenomenon, you’re completely wrong. Betting is an ancient skill. Even today’s casino table games like craps and roulette originated from games that were played thousands of years ago in countries like Asia, Europe and the Middle East, where people exchanged goods for a chance to win money or goods.

It is safe to say that gambling has been around as long as our species has existed, and the evidence ranges from ancient Chinese stones (3000-2300 BC) to ivory dice found in Egypt (2000 BC) to the use of gambling by Bronze Age Greek warriors.

No one knows for sure who created gambling, although many testimonies point to the Chinese as the creators of these games. Many ancient peoples, such as the Romans and Mesopotamians, used animal bones to participate in early forms of gambling. Moreover, ancient games are very similar to modern casino games.

Special establishments for gambling existed in many ancient societies — in ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and ancient China. Thus, man started gambling as soon as civilised society was born.

Archaeologists are aware of discoveries of prototypes of dice created several thousand years before Christ. They are believed to have been originally used for divination and magic rituals, and only later became an attribute of gambling.

Already in antiquity, a whole mass culture of gambling was formed. So, in Ancient Rome in 6th century B.C., the so called Circus was established — a public place where visitors were invited to play dice and wager for money.

The East wasn’t far behind Europe — gambling was also popular in the ancient lands of China and India.

Suffice it to say that such games are mentioned in the Indian Rigveda — an ancient collection of hymns and religious rules. Since then, gambling has become an industry involving special gambling establishments that operate under specific rules. We are going to tell you about these places, which are called «casinos».

The tradition of ancient Rome was continued in Renaissance Italy. The development of gambling establishments was also facilitated by the fact that card games, which were also included in the range of gambling entertainment offered, gradually became popular.

The first casino

The history of casinos started with the first casino in Europe, legally opened in Italy.

It opened in Venice in 1638 in the building of the Temple of Moses to help control gambling, which traditionally took place in Venice during the carnival season. This casino had a dress code and a rather high minimum bet. The purpose of these measures was to restrict visitors to the upper classes. The casino had to close in 1774 because of moralistic pressures, and it was not until 1946 that it reopened with the same name, which is considered the direct successor to the Ridotto from the 17th century.

Although legal casinos did not appear in the following years (due to high taxes), gambling became a serious problem in Italian society. This was largely due to the church’s negative attitude towards this kind of gambling. The result was laws forbidding all kinds of gambling. The first official casino in the world, Il Ridotto, was closed on the basis of such laws.

Despite numerous church sermons denouncing the sinfulness of gambling and prohibitions against it by the authorities, casinos quickly spread outside of Italy.

In 1765 the fashion for casinos reached neighbouring Italy in France.

The first such establishment in France opened on the initiative of Cardinal Mazarini. It was in France that roulette tables first appeared. This game, the authorship of which is attributed to Pascal, soon became widespread, and by 1780 it was played in almost all European casinos. Profits for casino owners from roulette were extremely high from the beginning.

Early in the 18th century the first casinos opened in other European countries, immediately becoming a must-have pastime for any less wealthy person. The casinos were also popular due to the sheer number of players that liked to congregate at the casinos, the amount of money they could win was pretty good, which made them very attractive to the players.

The heyday of European casinos

European casinos flourished in the 19th century. Their interiors became more and more luxurious, service rose to unprecedented levels of comfort and security. Every self-respecting person had to turn up at the casino, which also became a place for socialising with old friends and discussing vital political issues. Separate rooms were set up for players with particularly high stakes. Despite the casino craze among wealthy citizens, most casinos in Europe had to close by the end of the 19th century due to changes in gambling laws. The only flagship that remained afloat was Monte Carlo, which had no restrictions on gambling.

Also since the end of the 19th century is tracing its popularity among gamblers a small principality of Monaco. As for the New World, the early gambling establishments there could rarely boast the same luxury and elegance as the European casinos. But over time, the experience gained in the gambling business led to the establishment of Las Vegas, the acknowledged capital of gambling entertainment in the United States.

Today Las Vegas offers entertainment for all tastes, not all of it gambling related.

There are regular appearances by pop stars, sporting events, shopping malls and world-class restaurants. In recent years, world-class casinos have sprung up in Asia. According to statistics, Macau is already able to compete with Las Vegas in terms of revenue and tourist flows.

Currently, casino operations in different countries depend on the legislation of each of them. For example, in UK casinos are allowed to be located in several dozens of special gaming zones within countries, however, placement of gaming machines in bars, restaurants and other public places outside these zones is not limited.

A separate approach to online casinos exists in the legislation. Internet casinos are quite difficult to control, so depending on the country they are either prohibited altogether, or required to pass all sorts of checks and strict licensing.

The history of casinos has gone a long way from primitive gambling entertainment to architectural masterpieces with unmatched service and timelessness — online casinos. I wonder which direction casinos will go in next?