The term "casino" comes from the Italian word for house, casa.
The diminutive form casino was used to describe a small house, like a
cottage. Later on, the same word was applied to houses in the countryside used
for entertainment, including gambling. These country houses were visited by
Venetian nobles in early 18th century, who wanted some pastime out of control
of the church. As such it was used in the English language from 18th century,
and by 1851 the meaning had changed to "gambling establishment",
which is how we use it today.
In the 18th century there were also health resorts all over Europe, and
it was popular among those who could afford it to spend some time at one of
these. One of the popular ones were Spa in Belgium. This resort south
east of Liège added a gambling house called Redoute to its program in
1763. Gambling houses did of course exists elsewhere at this time, but Redoute
is usually regarded as the first casino. During the French Revolution, Redoute
was forced to close until Napoleon Bonaparte re-opened it in 1806.
During the time it was closed, the centre of the gambling business had moved
to Germany and places like Aachen, Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden, all health
resorts. The Germans built large complexes in the style of classicism, with
theatres and concert halls. People now game to the health resorts for gambling
as much as for improving their health.
In 1849 all German casinos were forced shut by politicians. The only one
still allowed was the one in Bad Homburg, where the owner managed to
reconstruct its business to a private club. This only worked until 1872 when
it was forbidden to act as a bank in gambling, and this was the case until
In France casinos had started appearing in the early 19th century as well,
along the Atlantic coast. Dieppe, Biarritz, Trouville and Deauville
all had famous casinos, where not only the French but also the English
nobles liked to gamble. This was also when bathing became popular, so older
health resorts in the inland, had a hard time competing with the trendy new
places along the coast.
In 1856 the famous casino of Monte Carlo opened and it followed a
German tradition of being federally owned, bringing a lot of money to the state.
During La belle époque Monte Carlo and its casino became famous all
over the world, with all the world coming there; actors, royalty, authors and musicians.
This casino still serves as a model for the new casinos that open every year
around the world.
In 1931, six people were give concession to start a casino in Las Vegas,
and after World War II the first casino in the US opened; The Fabulous
Flamingo. It lay on the main street of Las Vegas, The Strip, and was soon
followed by many others. Organized crime played an important part in the early
days of casinos in Las Vegas. When Las Vegas was founded in 1911 it had 800
inhabitants. Today it's the fastest growing city in the United States, with over
1.4 million inhabitants. Atlantic City in New Jersey opened a casino in
1978 and in 1987 it was decided that native Indians could open casinos on
their reservations. One third of all reservations now have a casino or
Today, there are hundreds of casinos all over the world, usually following
the Monte Carlo model with the state bringing home the money of the tourists.