The Fascinating History of Casinos – From Ancient Times to Modern Gaming

    A bustling scene with multiple vibrant slot machines lined up in rows

    With so many different cultures across multiple countries, it can be difficult to determine the origins of gambling or wagering activities. However, many civilizations have a history filled with stories of entertainment based on games of chance.

    Today, many people are familiar with online casinos, including crypto casino. Back then, there was no such thing as the Internet or even casinos. However, there were places where people would drink and gamble. This varied from one country to another.

    In this article, we will go over the history of casinos, especially during the 16th-century European and 18th-century Western eras in the United States. 

    Keep reading until the end, as we will discuss how gambling houses evolved into modern-day casinos. Let’s get started!

    Gambling in Europe During the 16th-century

    From Ancient Mesopotamia to the Greeks, Romans, French, and English, gambling was seen as a leisurely pastime in many societies. 

    Although it was prevalent across many different civilizations, there were no “casinos” back then because that terminology simply didn’t exist. Places where you could indulge in betting activities or games of chance were similar to taverns and referred to as “gambling houses.”

    Ridotto was the first known European gambling house. Located in Venice, Italy, the Ridotto was a wing in a five-star hotel (the Palazzo Dandolo) that the Italian leaders converted into a government-owned gambling house in 1638.

    The idea behind creating Ridotto was to legalize gambling activities in Venice. Back then, gambling clubs operated illegally, causing a spike in the number of people playing card games or placing wagers.

    To crack down on these establishments and remove such activities from the streets, the Venetian authorities decided to establish Ridotto. The gambling house was open to everyone. 

    However, due to the formal dress code and high stakes, only nobles could participate in wagering activities and games of chance.

    Players who wished to participate in gambling activities had to wear three-cornered hats and masks. Those who did not comply with Ridotto’s rules (often the less affluent Venetians) were not allowed to play at the establishment.

    Biribi and Basetta were the two most popular games at the Ridotto. These offered winning players many multiples of their wagers but were highly risky, which is what attracted the nobles in the first place.

    Unfortunately, in 1774, the Ridotto had to close its doors after Venetian reformer Giorgio Pisani advocated for the closure of gambling houses and clubs to protect society from “evil deeds.”

    Gambling in the 18th-century Western America

    As early as the 18th century, there were Western saloons that would serve alcohol and allow businessmen, lawyers, cowboys, and other people to participate in wagering activities. Some of these establishments also acted as brothels and opium dens.

    In 1822, Brown’s Hole, Wyoming, was the first place to have a saloon. By 1880, the concept of saloons spread rapidly across the United States, with Kansas having more than 150 of these types of establishments.

    Some saloons offered free lunches with every drink purchase to entice customers into staying longer and spending more money. Although the meals provided were more expensive than the cost of the alcoholic beverage, the saloon keeper relied on people purchasing multiple drinks.

    New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, and San Francisco became gambling hubs as more and more saloons started opening in these states. These establishments became places where people would socialize, get drunk, and gamble.

    However, by the early 20th century, state legislation outlawed gambling, which led to the closure of many Western saloons across the United States. Realizing that wagering activities brought more revenue to the state, Nevada expedited lawmakers to legalize gambling in 1931.

    Modern Casinos and How They Differ from Ancient Gambling Houses

    If you study the history of gambling, you’ll realize that there weren’t dedicated places where people could gamble. From the Western saloons that primarily served drinks to the gambling houses in Europe, where prostitution was common, gambling activities in these establishments came second.

    Since there were no places dedicated to gambling, this meant that the existing gambling houses, clubs, and saloons were not designed to attract players from all over the world. These were just buildings where people would go out and socialize over a bottle of beer.

    If you analyze modern-day casinos, you’ll realize how these establishments have evolved. Here, gambling activities come first, and casino operators are investing millions of dollars to optimize floor plans, enhance décor and atmospherics, and create games that encourage players to gamble more.

    Previously, ancient gambling houses introduced “happy hours,” where the establishment would subsidize alcoholic beverages to encourage patrons to buy more. The more drinks they would buy and consume, the quicker they would get drunk and participate in wagering activities.

    Although modern-day casinos sell drinks to their guests, they don’t rely on alcoholic beverages to encourage people to spend more time. They’ve invested billions of dollars in creating alluring games with nostalgic soundtracks and attractive animations, which is enough to hook the players.

    If that is not enough, modern-day casinos place low-risk slot machines at the entrance. When players play games on these, they win tokens or cash prizes, which can encourage them to come inside and explore the casino.

    Casino operators hire visual and sound experts to create different ambiances across multiple floors. Each floor may have a different theme, but one thing common among all the levels at modern-day casinos is that the music and lights are specially selected to encourage players to spend more time.

    Final Thoughts

    Since ancient times, gambling has been a favorite pastime among many cultures. After facing legislative pressures and negative opinions from religious societies, gambling houses or clubs remained small and modest.

    All of this changed as the Americans’ perceptions of gambling activities slowly started to change. Modern-day casinos have come a long way from ancient gambling houses.

    The grand staircases, majestic water features, stunning light shows, and design elements all contribute to the grandeur and elegance of modern-day casinos. 

    However, what’s interesting is that casino operators have a marketing budget and are investing more cash than ever before in studying players’ behaviors and introducing changes that would help generate more revenue.