The History of Casinos

The history of casinos can be confusing because over the centuries, the term "casino’ has been used loosely to describe any number of public buildings.


The term Casino comes from Italian, where it originally meant a small villa or summerhouse built for leisure purposes, generally on the grounds of a larger villa, or "palazzo".

One of the first records of a casino in the modern sense of the word comes from the 1630s in Venice, Italy, but in the 19th Century the term came to include places where any number of activities may have taken place.

The Copehagen Casino, for example, was a theatre until 1937, while the Hanko Casino in Finland has never been used for gambling and is currently a restaurant.

Creating a Gambling Culture

In America, early casinos were called saloons – places where travellers could drink, interact and often gamble.

Four cities were vital in cementing this platform from which America’s casino culture has sprung: New Orleans, St Louis, Chicago and San Francisco. It was to be another American city, however, that took casinos to the next level.

Following the years of prohibition in the early 20th Century, gambling was legalised in the state of Nevada in 1931. This led to the rise of America’s first official casinos in Las Vegas, which is still the world’s gaming capital.

With the increasing popularity and accessibility of Asian countries, however, has come a possible pretender to Las Vegas’ crown. American billionaire Sheldon Adelson is building a huge resort complex in Macau, China, known as the Cotai Strip, after the famous Vegas Strip.

Adelson plans to invest $12 billion and build 20 000 hotel in 7 hotel and casino resorts on the Cotai Strip by 2010.

Leisure Time

Casinos are usually built close to or combined with hotels, restaurants, retail shopping areas, cruiseships and other tourist attractions and play an important tourism role for many countries.

Many casinos throughout the world are also famous for hosting live entertainment events, such as stand-up comedy, music concerts and sporting events – such as poker tournaments and boxing matches.

There are now more than 4 000 casinos worldwide, with new casinos and resorts appearing every year.

The turn of the 21st Century has seen the phenomenal rise of online casinos, prompting many people to doubt whether real-world casinos have a sustainable future.

But this fails to take into account the social aspect of visiting a casino, not to mention the prominence of hotel and casino resorts in the modern age of world travel.