A Brief History of Casinos

When we think of casinos, we imagine twinkling lights and celebratory jingles on the Las Vegas Strip. With the shift to online play, gamblers could enjoy a virtually limitless selection of games from every genre imaginable, but the evolution of gambling games sparked so many changes that some may forget how it all started! Nowadays, online games are far more advanced than they once were; let’s take a quick look at the history of casinos and the transformation of our favourite games.

When we think of casinos, we imagine twinkling lights and celebratory jingles on the Las Vegas Strip. With the shift to online play, gamblers could enjoy a virtually limitless selection of games from every genre imaginable, but the evolution of gambling games sparked so many changes that some may forget how it all started! Nowadays, online games are far more advanced than they once were; let’s take a quick look at the history of casinos and the transformation of our favourite games.

Where It All Began

Most historians agree that gambling evolved alongside human civilisation in nearly every corner of the world. Archaeological evidence points to a diverse range of games, indicated by unearthed dice prototypes and other rudimentary games of chance that date back thousands of years. The first playing cards appeared in 9th-century China; although these cards bear little resemblance to the playing cards we all know today, they were the first steps on the way to games like poker, baccarat and blackjack.  

The first casino — Il Ridotto — was not so much a gambling house as it was a private wing in Venice’s Palazzo Dandolo. Established in 1638, the private parlour provided a controlled gambling environment for crapshooters and card players while they were entertained by music and drinks. 

Il Ridotto was frequented by the nobility and upper-class Venetians and was very beneficial to the state, since the casino paid substantial taxes. But, the negative attitude it received due to gambling activities forced the government to close down the first official casino in the world. Despite the questionable nature of gambling, the pastime was enjoyed by people from all walks of life, which led to a rapid spread of official and underground casinos across the continent. 

Places like Wiesbaden, Germany and the glamorous Monte Carlo began to design and build luxurious casinos fit only for the elite gamblers of the time.  As gambling stormed through the 19th century, casino interiors were becoming more and more extravagant. Despite the public’s zealousness for casinos, many were forced to close due to amendments in the gambling legislation. The Monte Carlo casino was the only one left unaffected, which was instrumental in popularising one of the great pillars of casino games — roulette. 

The Las Vegas Boom

Although gambling was already deeply rooted in European history, games like roulette reached American soil in the late 19th century with the arrival of early settlers from France. 

Early American gambling houses were referred to as saloons. Travellers used them as a place to eat, drink and occasionally gamble. At the time, most gambles were for a few coins or prizes like cigars or a round of drinks. As gambling games took a stronger hold in middle and lower classes, saloons and gambling parlours spread across major American cities faster than you can say “game of cards, anyone?”. These saloons soon became the vices of America and, as in Europe, gambling activities soon became outlawed. But the lucrative nature of these early casinos could not be overlooked. At the beginning of the Great Depression, the country’s economy was in shambles; in the barren lands of Nevada, mining was in decline, and the state had no other choice but to take drastic measures and legalise gambling in 1931. To this day, Las Vegas stands as the world’s gambling capital. The next state in line was New Jersey, but not until 1976, when gambling was permitted within the bounds of Atlantic City. 

While the legislation surrounding gambling and casinos shifted at a rather slow pace, the restrictions and prohibitions didn’t slow down the evolution of gambling games in the slightest. Games like roulette, poker, blackjack and baccarat became a staple at every casino in the States, and slots — which also made their first appearance in the 19th century —  quickly became one of the most played casino games around.

Online Casinos

As modernisation was on the rise, casino games soon shifted from brick-and-mortar casinos to online platforms, bringing about the greatest casino game revolution of all time. One of the biggest developers to date, Microgaming, released the first fully operational gambling software, making safe online gameplay available to players worldwide. This led to the creation of the first online casino in 1994 — and we’re sure you can guess how things took off from there! Casino games became more accessible and took the globe by storm.

Slot games evolved from three-reel fruity games and poker look-alikes as more and more developers entered the scene. Now, slots sport some of the most cutting-edge mechanics like bonus rounds, special symbols, jackpot prizes, Megaways™ and a myriad of other features. Casino games get better and better by the day, as game developers continue to propel forward, riding on the engine of technological innovation.

Casinos were once a place where only the elite could play. Now, online gaming has become one of the biggest forms of entertainment; many predict that the next step is virtual casinos, but who knows what the future holds! 

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