Gambling may be as old as man himself. Historical research has shown that gambling was already practiced in ancient China from 2300 BC. The ancient Greeks and Romans also knew some games of chance, but real casinos as we know them today only came into being much later.
The word “casino
The word “casino” is Italian in origin. The Italian word “casa” simply means “house” and the diminutive “casino” was specifically used to refer to a small villa or a country house. The meaning of the word evolved over the years and later it became something like “a small house for play and fun on the estate of a large villa”. In the casinos of that time theatre plays and dance performances were performed, but there was also regular gambling. Casinos at that time were also often associated with prostitution.
In the nineteenth century the use of the term “casino” changed again. From then on it was a public space in which various entertaining activities (including gambling) were performed.
The very first casino
The first real casino worthy of the name was the Ridotto in Venice. This gambling house (the term “casino” was not yet used) was founded in 1638 and was originally part of the church of San Moise. The Ridotto was the first public place where gambling was offered in an organized way. Basically, anyone was allowed to come and play at the Ridotto, but because of the strict dress code and high stakes, only wealthy people could afford to spend an evening at this casino. The Ridotto offered various games of chance, including biribi and basetta. Biribi is a game that resembles a modern lottery. Basetta is a game that will remind many modern gamblers of a real casino classic, namely Blacjack. In 1774, the Ridotto was closed because, according to the city’s leaders, it had a bad influence on the neighborhood and radiated decadence.
From saloons to Las Vegas
In America, casinos underwent a unique evolution. Gambling was often practiced in large saloons. In major cities such as New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco, gambling saloons became a regular part of nightlife. What set these saloons apart from the European predecessors of modern casinos, was that they were also accessible to ordinary people. Saloons were places where ordinary people came to play games and where the aristocracy often stayed away.
In the early twentieth century, however, gambling was banned in America, causing much of the gambling world to end up in illegality. The state of Nevada was the first place where gambling became legal again and the result is world famous: Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world and perhaps the first place on earth where real modern casinos turned up.
In the twentieth century, the rise of casinos was unstoppable. Casinos were established all over the Western world, often with enormous success.
Also in the last twenty years, casinos have experienced an important evolution. Gambling appeared to go hand in hand with the advent of the internet. Online casinos are therefore the latest development in the field of casinos.