The Birth of Modern Casinos

min read
A bright red and yellow casino sign surrounded by lights.
BetMGM Dec 05, 2023, 10:00 PM

Have you ever wondered who came up with the genius idea of casinos? While nobody really knows exactly how gambling first started, casinos have a definite origin. These high-energy gambling establishments can be traced back to 1638 in Venice, Italy, when one of the world’s earliest public casinos, Il Ridotto, was established.

This article takes a detailed look at this casino, explaining what it was, when it first opened, and how it shaped today’s casino industry. Of course, there were no online slots or table games in those days, but live in-person entertainment was a given.

A Brief History

By the 17th century, gambling had become a widespread activity in Europe and was especially rampant during Carnival season in Italy. To curb illegal practices and regulate such activity in Venice, the government designated a specific wagering venue inside the Palazzo Dandolo. 

This room was named “Il Ridotto,” an Italian phrase meaning “The Private Room.” This enterprise involved a collaboration between mercantile gamblers, keen on making money, and the government, whose priority was public order.

Although this gambling hall was open to everyone, its visitors were mostly nobles, merchants, and businesspeople who could afford its high-stakes games. There were also strict restrictions on the dress code for visitors. 

This was supposed to maintain some level of decorum and give the impression of formality within the establishment. It also contributed to the exclusivity of gambling at the venue.

How Il Ridotto Influenced Modern Casinos

The Venetian gambling house operated successfully for over a century but was closed down by the ruling government in 1774. In the eyes of many, gambling was immoral and promoted crime and social unrest, leading to a crackdown on the business. Nevertheless, the foundation for regulated gambling businesses had been laid, and it was only a matter of time before they resurfaced.

Given the success of Il Ridotto, more casinos sprung up in different locations across Europe, including France, Germany, and England. As the business idea moved across cultures, it took on different forms. Games were added, and the rules of each were refined, giving rise to the structures seen today. 

Several elements observed at the first legal gambling venue can still be seen in the modern-day gambling industry, including the following.

1. Regulation and Oversight

Every legal modern casino is subject to government authorities and regulatory bodies that oversee their activities. The first Italian casino-like business was launched and operated by the government of Venice, setting a precedent for the involvement of governments in gambling.

Today, governments set up frameworks that promote responsible gambling practices and fairness to both players and casino owners. They also institute rules and regulations that prevent crimes like fraud and money laundering. 

In addition, they ensure that the existence of these businesses contributes positively to the economy by imposing taxes to fund public projects.

2. Diverse Gaming Options

Games that were played at the premier gambling house include biribi, bassetta, and some card games. Biribi was a board game played with numbers, just like roulette, which has become one of the most popular casino games today. Bassetta, on the other hand, was a card game commonly played by the elite due to the risks of significant losses.

Today, there are even more games for gambling enthusiasts to enjoy. Baccarat, roulette, blackjack, and jackpot slots are staples enjoyed in various casinos worldwide. Online casino games have taken things several notches higher with the introduction of live dealer games and entertaining game shows.

3. Stringent Entry Requirements

Since the goal of the government of Venice was to ensure order and formality with regard to gambling, strict entry requirements were necessary. Apart from the dress code mentioned earlier, patrons had to pay to gain access to the establishment, and masks, which were common during the Carnival season in Venice, were also prohibited.

Similar rules exist in today’s gambling establishments. In many casinos and online gambling platforms, you must be 18 years or older to open an account. Valid identification cards are also a must-have at legal casinos to verify your age and compliance with legal requirements. 

Many land-based casinos enforce dress codes like Il Ridotto did to create an ambiance that suited their brand. You may also be required to be physically present in a region to gamble at online casinos registered in such areas. 

4. Opportunities for Social Interaction

Social interactions are as much a part of casino history as the games that the industry is known for. Despite the handful of restrictions placed on entry into Il Ridotto, it welcomed players from all walks of life. This unique mix of people created an atmosphere for them to interact, socialize, and exchange cultural values.

The same applies to modern casinos. In land-based gambling houses, you have the chance to meet people with shared interests. New players can connect and learn from more experienced players, reinforcing a sense of camaraderie. 

Lovers of online gambling are not left out either, thanks to live dealer games and their chat boxes. Text-based conversations on game strategies, outcomes, and expectations also make betting sessions engaging.

5. Economic Benefits

The economic impact of the Venetian gambling house launched in the 17th century can’t be underestimated. It generated revenue for the government via entry fees plus taxes on winnings. Employment opportunities were also created for different individuals, including workers, who ensured its smooth day-to-day running. Moreover, tourists poured into the city to see the first legal gambling house and join its games.

Modern casinos have the same economic value today. In addition to large-scale revenue generation, they foster national growth through infrastructure and community development.

The Legacy

Despite its relatively short-lived existence, the history of casinos online (and off) was forever changed by that first wagering establishment in Venice. Regulated gambling has built a safe space for governments, betting enthusiasts, and casino owners to co-exist and thrive. Casinos are also woven deeply into the fabric of entertainment and culture in iconic locations like Las Vegas, Macau, and London.

And Now the Entertainment Continues

No list of crazy facts about casino gambling would be complete without understanding the origins of gambling houses. It’s intriguing to see where it all began and how much has changed since then. 

Italy remains a top-rated destination for legal gambling in the world. But these days, the entertainment is unlimited. With online casinos, gambling is more accessible and dynamic than ever before. Register at BetMGM today and relish the ease of modern-day gambling with engaging games, generous bonuses, and many other benefits.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.