Casino History: From Mesopotamia to the Internet

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the first casino ever?

We’ll probably never know. The official history of casinos begins in Venice, where Il Ridotto opened in 1638 with the intention of entertaining prosperous visitors during the city’s world-famous carnevale week. Designed by architect Mauro Codussi, the building also served as an Italian royal residence and it was a home away from home to opera composer Richard Wagner in the 19th century. 

Il Ridotto remains open today. If you decide to try your luck in this casino, you can play slots, video poker, roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and poker with a minimum bet of $10. An important detail in the history of the casino is that some World Poker Tour events are hosted there.

What is the history of gambling?

Prehistoric artifacts show that gambling is as old as humanity itself. From antiquity to the internet era, gambling has been debated, outlawed, legalized, regulated, condemned, and enjoyed by every civilization on every continent.

Some of the earliest evidence of gambling activity dates back to ancient China, Mesoamerica, north Africa, and Greece. Baccarat, played in Italy and France, is one of the oldest casino games in the history of gambling.

Where does casino money come from?

Casinos make money through a house edge that is part of every game. The edge is a small percentage, but with hundreds of millions of bets placed every month, the advantage earns casinos enough to maintain their luxurious trappings.

In America, the casino edge is regulated by law and it varies from state to state. In general, you get the best odds in Las Vegas casinos. Online, reputable casino operators publish their return-to-player percentages, which detail the portion of each game’s take that is paid out as winnings to players.

What does casino mean?

In 16th-century Italy, the birthplace of casino history, members of the upper class gambled in private houses hosted by aristocrats. The establishments were called ridotti (which means atrium or foyer) at first. Later, illicit gambling establishments were situated in private homes and referred to as casinos. Casino means brothel or shooting lodge in Italian.