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History of Casinos

Gambling historically went hand-in-hand with many other forms of social activity. Over the last few centuries this has changed, with attempts to legally control the practice of gambling resulting in its move into venues dedicated primarily to that purpose, thereby giving rise to the modern casino.

When people think of gambling, more often than not it is casinos that spring to mind. Although there are almost infinite forms of gambling in existence, it is in the casino that gambling becomes formalised and takes on a physical existence. However, the word initially came from the Italian for a summerhouse or a small country villa. It was a place for pleasure, and not necessarily restricted to being used for gambling. Some early casinos were used for music and dance and theatre too. In fact, the first European gambling house was not called a casino at all. This was the Ridotto, opened in Venice, Italy in 1638 to provide a controlled setting for gambling during the carnival season and so was, in this sense, what we would nowadays call a casino. It is only later that the word casino began to be applied to this type of building. In American history the early gambling houses were called saloons. Similar to the early European casinos these were not establishments whose primary purpose was gambling. Rather they provided a social space where drinking and music and other public activities, including gambling, could be carried out.

As we can see, gambling was initially carried out in public alongside many other social activities. The origin of the modern casino, with its primary focus on gambling, lies in subsequent developments in American history. Scandalous stories were emanating from the Old West and gambling was being seen as associated with moral decline. As part of a wider drive for social reform, it was therefore no surprise that gambling was made illegal in the early twentieth century throughout the United States. When in 1931 gambling was made legal again in the state of Nevada, it was with more legal constraints attached. It became a more regulated industry, confined to purpose-built casinos where it could be observed and controlled. This is where our modern idea of a casino stems from, with Las Vegas being synonymous with casinos in the minds of most people, a glitzy and glamorous image of roulette tables and high rollers and beautiful cocktail waitresses. And although the glamour and glitz is variable, this is what casinos are now – purpose-built establishments whose primary purpose is gambling, providing an environment where gambling can be more strictly controlled. This is necessary because laws about gambling differ widely throughout the world. Although casinos exist all over the world in all shapes and sizes, with the glitzy image of Las Vegas defining them in the public consciousness, they are not universally legal. In some countries age restrictions may apply, in others there are rules about alcohol and gambling being separated. A purpose-built gambling establishment, like a casino, allows controls to be implemented while still allowing gambling to take place and it is in these locations, the casinos, that for the best part of the twentieth century the majority of gambling would have taken place in many countries.

The exponential growth of the internet inevitably led to a parallel growth in online gaming and gambling. It was obviously only a matter of time before the idea of the casino made the transition from its bricks and mortar beginnings to the world of cyberspace in the form of online casino websites, and in 1995 the first online casino was launched. Read about the history of online casinos.

Risk Disclaimer: Please remember that gambling should be engaged in for the purpose of entertainment only. Problem gambling can have serious adverse effects socially and financially. supports responsible gambling. In the UK it is illegal to gamble if you are under the age of 18!