• Play free casino games
  • Exclusive, free welcome bonuses
  • Expert & independent reviews

Brief History Of Casinos

While a blackjack dealer isn’t the world's oldest profession, people all over the world have enjoyed gambling for centuries. From clay dice made of bones and early Chinese dominoes to lottery games organized by famous emperors, wagering has made its mark on history. Games of chance even predate the invention of modern money itself. Casinos are a natural step in the evolution of gaming. Just like the rest of civilization, modern gaming houses are simply a more organized and socially acceptable version of a pastime already enjoyed by billions over the course of history.

The Birth Of Modern Casinos

Contemporary casinos can trace their roots across the Atlantic all the way to 17th century Italy. In 1638 a venue in Venice called the Riotto opened its doors. Situated inside the San Moisè Palace and open to the public during carnival season, players enjoyed a lottery game called birbi and basetta, which fused elements of gin rummy, poker, and blackjack. Although the Riotto was technically open to everyone, giant stakes and a strictly enforced dress code meant the games were reserved for the aristocracy, at least in practice. The casino ultimately closed its doors in 1774 as views on virtue and morality shifted.

Gambling On The Frontier

In the 19th century, gambling thrived across the USA. From the port of New Orleans to the coast of California, wagering had become America's unofficial national pastime. By midcentury, long before Las Vegas was on anyone's radar, San Francisco was the US gambling capital. With the gold rush in full swing, saloons had plenty of organized action and little trouble attracting prospectors.

Gambling continued to thrive following the civil war, with many large frontier cities having fancy casinos. Yet society's views towards vices and risk-taking were changing. In California, for example, professional gamblers were lynched and it became illegal to play games against the house. Ultimately all games became illegal but casinos continued to thrive underground.

The Birth Of Las Vegas

Laws mean nothing if they aren’t enforced, which is why illegal gaming houses thrived in the early 20th century through the great depression. From New York to California, many of these dens of iniquity were mob-operated. As state governments started cracking down on gambling, these mobsters fled to Nevada where gambling was fully legalized in 1931. In 1946 Las Vegas was officially on the map when The Pink Flamingo, a now historic luxury casino, opened its door. Big names like the Sahara, Riviera, and Tropicana not only followed but also attracted the world. By the 1950s Las Vegas had become the undisputed casino capital of Earth, which it still is.

Despite these changes, criminal gangs retained their stranglehold on Sin City through the 1950s. Yet throughout the 1960s new laws made it possible for corporations to get into the business, which not only loosened the mob's grip but helped give birth to today's entertainment resorts.

Beyond Nevada

In the seventies, Americans expanded their casino horizons with the rebirth of Atlantic City. The New Jersey town was reborn as the east coast's gambling capital. In the 1980s congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory act, which paved the way for hundreds of Native American casinos across the USA. The days of heading across the country for a little fun were officially over, yet the world had no idea what technology would have in store.

Logging On For Excitement

By the mid-1990s, the internet was no longer just a curiosity. It was a valuable tool that aimed to improve every aspect of American life. It shouldn’t be much of a shock that the first online casino games appeared when people still used terms like information superhighway. Although these sites were largely based offshore, they provided service to Americans and were not even noticed by the powers in Washington. Trailblazing players in all fifty states logged on to sample slots, roulette, baccarat, craps, blackjack, keno, sports wagering, and other casino classics.

Internet casinos really made their mark in the new millennium riding on the coattails of the online poker boom. It wasn’t until the US government enacted the UIGEA in 2006 that online casinos started to retreat. The repercussions were neither immediate nor far reaching with dozens of foreign casinos continuing to operate successfully.

Digital Gaming Ahead

While Las Vegas continues to thrive, it's obvious that the future is online. With Americans continuing to play on international sites, U.S. states are refusing to miss out on the action. New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware either license or operate their own online casinos for players in their states. One by one other states are preparing their own legislation and ballot measures as they prepare to roll the proverbial dice.

Additional Reading

Learn more about the history of Las Vegas: http://www.history.com/topics/las-vegas

Discover everything you need to know about Indian Casinos in your area: https://www.nigc.gov/