The history of gambling goes back centuries. Many think of gambling as a primarily underground activity historically. But gambling houses are also not an invention of this century, or the last. Here is a rundown of five of the oldest casinos in the world.
Casinò di Venezia, Italy
This is the one you may have heard of, especially if you like quizzing. Casinò di Venezia, sitting atop the Grand Canal in Venice, is officially the first casino ever built. Back in 1638, it originally opened as the Theatre Saint Moses. The ‘casino’ as such was but a gambling wing with the name ‘ Ca’ Vendramin Calergi’. Saint Moses itself is a brilliant work of art, designed by Mauro Cadussi, one of the biggest celebrity architects in 15th century Italy. All that said, the actual casino has been moved to a different building from the original gambling wing since the 1950s. The current casino itself is a fully functional one. It is no less entertaining than the Vegas strip for a gambler. The historical lineage is an added bonus. After all, this is the original casino that jump-started the craze for gambling in the Venezian merchant society.
Get to know more here about the Casino di Venezia—the First Casino in the World.
Casino de Spa, Belgium
Casino de Spa’s claim to be the world’s first gambling establishment is dubious. However, it is indeed the world’s first ‘modern casino,’ so to speak. The arguments against its claims against being one of the oldest are not because it is not old. The Belgian gambling resort was first built way back in 1763. However, during the first world war, it suffered massive fire damage. So it had been extensively rebuilt in 1918, one of its many transformations. Its ownership changed hands several times, too. Currently, it is owned and operated by the Circus Casino Spa group, who have held it since the early 2000s. Although it has undergone numerous renovations, it still retains the original charm of its old pre-war architecture.
Kurhaus Casino of Baden-Baden, Germany
Almost nothing about the Kurhaus will remind you of the usual Vegas casino scene from the outside. It is still very much neoclassical on all fronts. Intricate murals on the ceilings, iconic marble Corinthian columns, paired-griffins frieze on the portico, you name it. Weinbrenner built it in 1820, but it officially became a gambling house 14 years after that. It also gained traction as a casino very early on and very fast. The largest reason back then was the French ban on gambling. Kurhaus of Baden-Baden lies right at the outskirts of the Black Forest on the border between France and Germany. Naturally, many Frenchmen would cross the border to try their hand at the German gambling nexus. Not only is it still a great casino, but it is also a rich historical site.
This is a place where many historical non-gambling related activities took place as well. Major examples are a chess tourney, an Olympic congress, and even a NATO summit.
Casino de Monte Carlo, Mónaco
They call the Monte Carlo Casino ‘Grand Casino’, and with good reason. It is not only grand in visuals but also in its history. The very establishment of the casino is an intriguing tale. Monte Carlo was a Hail Mary business venture from the House of Grimaldi, the ruling house of Monaco, to save themselves from bankruptcy. To this end, they started it in 1856 in a villa. But this is not the same place we call Monte Carlo. The actual building today only completed its construction in 1863 and became profitable only after decades of a rough start. It is elegant, vivid, and aristocratic, both inside and out. As you may expect, it has every luxury of a modern casino.
Its status as a high-end casino is so important that it served as the setting for many films like Casino Royale.
The Golden Gate Casino, Las Vegas
The Golden Gate Casino is the prime example of smart land investment. John F. Miller bought the plot for about one and a half grand in 1905. This is a paltry sum if you look at the behemoth that the casino is today. Anyhow, the building was initially Hotel Nevada. The casino was off to a rocky start, as the government slapped a ban on gambling soon after it opened. Fortunately, they lifted the ban in 1931. Then the owners rebranded it as the Sal Sagev Casino. That is Las Vegas if you spell it backwards. Anyhow, the name would only last for two decades before the current ‘Golden Gate’ name came up.
There are a number of casinos that are just as significant in status. The first honorable mention is, of course, Binion’s casino. From the colorful life of its founder to its involvement in the World Series of Poker, the casino makes for a great tale. But that is a tale for another day.
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