You may never have sat down and wondered about the history of casinos but it is actually quite exciting and possibly dates back further than you might realise. Gambling has been around for a long time, right back to gladiatorial times when spectators would bet on who the winner would be. So, the casino industry dates back many thousands of years, although the look has changed considerably to what we know today. So, here’s a brief look back at how it all began.
Where it All Began
The earliest records of gambling can be found in about 2300 BC over in China. In Egypt around 1500 BC there is evidence that dice games were played. Obviously, at this time, there was no designated casino building; gambling just went on among friends and family. It was in 1638 that the authorities opened the first gaming location in Venice. Initially, it was only open in carnival season to create a gathering point for licenced gambling to try and keep any trouble off the streets. That casino is still standing on the bank of the canals in Venice. At that time, it wasn’t called the casino; the word started to be used during the late 18th century when many more designated gaming buildings were erected this time in mainland Europe. The history of one of the most popular games, roulette dates back to 1665, but of course, with no particular venues it didn’t take off as a game. In 1842 the wheel was amended, and a zero was added, this was down to King Charles the third of Monaco who was getting fed up with having to pay-out so often. There are two widely acceptable wheels in use today. In Europe, we have a single zero, and in America, we have a double zero wheel. Somewhere between these two dates casinos started to spread out across Europe. Monte Carlo is famous for its glamour and gambling, and Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden in Germany also stand out as being some of the earliest designated casino buildings. In Monte Carlo, the facilities were undoubtedly aimed at the upper classes, and although they virtually only offered card games, it was very upmarket and palatial. Although Las Vegas is now the gambling capital of the world, at the time America was somewhat behind Europe and didn’t have anything to offer at this time.
Located in the desert, this is perhaps the most iconic gambling site in the whole world. Las Vegas in Nevada was born in 1905, so just over 100 years ago. This may surprise many people who would consider it to be older, but it was actually more recent. It was started by a group of railroad workers who were tasked with connecting Las Vegas to the Pacific coastline. This was going to be a long and arduous job laying endless tracks and the labour’s decided they needed some way to pass the evenings and relax. Of course, to start with, it was wholly unlicensed and became a problem city rife with drinking, gambling and prostitution, causing the authorities to step in pretty fast. In 1910 Nevada outlawed the practice of gambling and this stayed the case until 1931. Twenty-one years after they banned it Nevada re legalised gambling and the local population really went to town. So, it seemed to be that the only solution was to create a licenced venue which came about in 1941 and was the first resort named El Rancho Vegas. As well as the table games, this resort boasted horse riding facilities and swimming pools and hotels. The first casinos in the area were relatively bare, with only two blackjack tables, a roulette wheel, one craps table and 70 slot machines. Today the number of tables reaches into the hundreds and the slot machines on offer into the thousands.
With the advent of the Internet, came online gambling. This has meant that in many places, brick and mortar casinos have been closed. The modern world decided that living via the Internet was more comfortable, and there are now hundreds and thousands of online casinos offering punters a chance to play. Some famous names have a High Street presence and an Internet presence, and it is now common for betting houses to create gambling facilities online and vice versa. William Hill, for example, is a famous bookmaker who now has a thriving casino on the Internet. Online casinos have been booming since the year 2000, and it seems to be a stroke of luck that they had already made a move to the virtual world before the coronavirus created a lockdown. Of course, during the global pandemic, many venues have had to close their facilities, but online gambling has been allowed to continue in most places. Gambling is not welcome in every corner of the world, New Jersey, for example, has only recently allowed gambling to take place, and there are still quite strict restrictions in place for what is and isn’t authorised. Specific communities and religions do not allow gambling. However, in most areas, it is now widely accepted that online casinos, and where they still exist bricks and mortar venues are open to the public most of the time. Las Vegas remains an iconic destination for many people who want to be able to say they have been and stood on the Las Vegas Strip and married by an Elvis impersonator.