A short history of European gaming

From the ancient Egyptians to the Roman Empire, our ancestors really loved the thrill of the bet

The modern casino industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise with strict legal frameworks and established traditions. The story of how the industry came to this point spans most of our history. Gambling was one of man's earliest leisure activities and was very popular in some of our earliest civilizations. From the ancient Egyptians to the Roman Empire, our ancestors really loved the thrill of the bet. According to historians, gambling was the height of enjoyment in ancient Rome and dates back to well before recorded history.

The custom of wagering developed as a result of an interest in how well humans fared in the battle against wild animals. Eventually, over time, gambling grew more organized, and players participated in more "civilized"  gladiator matches.

Gambling in Ancient Rome

Gambling became a favorite pastime for Ancient Romans and a way to entertain themselves at night. It became a representation of wealth, social class, authority, and rank. Women were only legally permitted to play at the Bona Dea Festival, but men of all backgrounds were able to bet on any game, on any day they desired. The local gaming tradition tolerated cheating and even the use of magic but prohibited any fighting, even after foul play.  Gambling was so widespread that it also infiltrated the cultures of the people the Roman Empire conquered.

A very popular leisure activity for the ancient Romans was the Circus  - a huge arena where events such as chariot races would take place and draw huge crowds. The people of Rome would bet on the outcome of the races, very much like the sports betting of today.

Europe's First Modern Casinos

The Italian term "Casa," which originally meant "little home," is where the name "casino" originates. In 1638, Italy became the first country in contemporary Europe to open a casino. In order to offer supervised gambling throughout the Carnival season, the Ridotto in Venice was established. But by 1774, the city had to shut down because it was hurting the local aristocracy's finances. The casino is still open today in a different location.

The Casino di Venezia, located on the Grand Canal in Venice, currently holds the title of oldest casino in the world. The Casino di Venezia was also opened in 1638.   It was formerly known as the Theatre Saint Moses, which offered a special area where patrons could gamble during intermissions.

Two other casinos were opened on the continent in the 1770s: The Redoute in France and the second casino, the Vaux Hall, in Spa, Belgium. Twenty years later, the roulette wheel was introduced to casinos,  leading to an increase in casino popularity, and turning them into lucrative businesses.

European Casinos Today

Today, Europe is home to a large number of casinos with a rich history,  lavish ambiance, and located in some of the world's most picturesque settings. Here are just a few that we recommend you  visit: 

Le Club Barrière Paris

Situated on the Avenue des Champs-Elysée, Le Club Barrière Paris, has been entertaining European Gamblers for over 80 years. Poker really is the game at Le Club Barrière with over 14 poker tables in a stunning “Gentleman's club” type setting. The casino hosts major poker tournaments throughout the year.

Monte Carlo Casino

The Monte Carlo Casino has been a favored hangout for Europe's elite since 1863. It also served as the location for many more movies, TV shows, and books. Two James Bond blockbusters, GoldenEye and Never Say Never Again, used it as their backdrop. If you decide to bet at the Monte Carlo Casino, you will have the option of playing more than 480 slot machines, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, and many more games.

Casino de la Valle 

Otherwise known as Saint-Vincent Resort & Casino. Over 400 slot machines can be found at this world-famous resort. It boasts a long gaming history and a diverse selection of popular table and card games.

Casinò Municipale di Sanremo

The stately and beautiful Sanremo casino first opened its doors at the turn of the 20th century. This casino features several slot machines and table games in addition to poker rooms.

Casino di Venice

The Ca' Vendramin Calergi, a Renaissance palace overlooking the Grand Canal in the center of the city, is the most stunning position. The Casino di Venezia draws a lot of famous people from throughout the world. With more than 600 slot machines, many table games, and baccarat tournaments you will be spoilt for choice.

Final Thoughts

The next time you have a chance to visit one of the great European cities,  it is highly recommended to take a small detour and visit one of these casinos. Even if you have no intention of placing a bet or two, it is worthwhile to visit to simply soak up the atmosphere and remember the long and quite noble history of gambling. 

Disclaimer: Play responsibly. For help, visit www.rgf.org.mt. Players must be over 18