Guide to the History of Land-Based Casinos: The First Gambling Establishments


Land-based casinos refer to the physical premises where people go to gamble. Also called brick-and-mortar, these establishments provide real-world gambling venues. Some brick-and-mortar casinos mix online and land-based gambling activities, while others combine gaming and services like bars, hotel rooms, and restaurants. 

Initially, gamblers didn’t have options like online casinos and mobile casinos. Thus, a person had to travel to a land-based casino in their area to enjoy a gambling session with other players. However, online gambling came and changed this. As a result, modern gamblers don’t have to travel to a physical gambling establishment where people play casino games. 

But, land-based casinos still exist, and they have a unique appeal that draws players from distant places. For instance, some gamblers prefer land-based casinos due to their complementary services like entertainment acts and drinks. In addition, these brick-and-mortar establishments offer a wide range of games, with some specializing in specific titles like roulette or slot games. 

Perhaps, the provision of complementary services that gamblers can’t get when playing online is the primary reason why some players stick to brick-and-mortar casinos. What’s more, some land-based casinos offer several electronic games. 

You can find physical casinos in different cities and towns around the world. However, cities like Las Vegas have more gambling venues than others. Additionally, land-based casinos are mainly in the same street or area in places like Atlantic City. 

A Brief History of Land-Based Casinos 

It’s crucial to go back to where gambling began to understand the history of land-based casinos. People started gambling back in ancient times. That’s because archaeologists have discovered dices prototypes humans created thousands of years back, even before Christ. Some archaeologists believe that humans used these items for magic rituals and fortune-telling before they became gambling attributes. 

Humans formed the gambling mass culture in antiquity. Ancient Rome created a Circus back in the 6th century BC. And this was a public place for visitors to play cracks and make money by betting. Archaeologists have also discovered signs of rudimentary chance games. Also, archaeologists have excavated old dice. Scientists have also discovered Roman and Greek pottery, indicating that animal fight bets were common in ancient times. Humans could even breed animals for the sole purpose of gambling. 

At around 200 BC, humans played the “white pigeon ticket’ in Chinese gambling houses with the provincial governor’s permission. The governor received a percentage of the proceeds from the gambling events while the winnings funded state works. For instance, Yale and Harvard received their funding from lottery money. And humans play lottery games even today. 

Archaeologists believe that humans played the first card games in the 9th century in China. However, the games that humans played back then are unknown. And these cards had little resemblance with the ones gamblers use today. Usually, those cards had human forms decorations. However, the Queens and Kings that most people are familiar with today started appearing as these games spread to Europe. With the spreading of gambling throughout the world, it evolved to become more regulated and organized. 

The Emergence of the First Gambling Establishments 

Historians don’t know the precise time when gambling began. However, they believe that members of every society have participated in gambling in one form or another. From Ancient Romans and Greeks to England and France, human history is full of entertaining stories with games of chance as their basis. 

The first gambling establishment appeared in the 17th century in Italy. Although the Ridotto didn’t meet the modern casino’s definition, it provided a more controlled gambling atmosphere in Venice after opening its doors to gamblers in 1638. After the Ridotto, more gambling establishments emerged in the 19th century throughout Europe. But, unfortunately, the Great Council of Venice closed it in 1774 because the city government thought it impoverished the local gentry. 

The Americans referred to their ancient gambling establishments as saloons. Cities like San Francisco, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Chicago greatly influenced the importance and creation of the saloons. Travelers found the people to drink with, talk to, and gamble within these saloons. 

However, state legislation outlawed gambling in America at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1931, the state of Nevada decriminalized gambling. As a result, Nevada became home to the first legal American casinos. In Atlantic City, New Jersey legalized gambling, becoming the second-largest city in America where people could gamble freely.


In France, land-based casinos date back to 1550. In this year, King Francois Ier authorized the opening of the first terrestrial theater. While some archaeologists refer to France as the cradle of games of chance, the casino fashion wave reached this country in 1765. That’s when the country had the first casino open in Paris. Cardinal Mazarin made this possible, hoping to replenish the country’s treasury using taxes from the casino business. This casino introduced the roulette game that had not appeared in other establishments. And this made it very popular among players. 

Other European countries opened the first casinos in the early 18th century due to large numbers of gamblers that loved participating in these entertainments. Also, these casinos offered reasonable prize amounts. The opportunities for earning decent money drew more players to these establishments. And that’s how land-based casinos’ popularity increased. 

As of the 19th century, games like Vingt-et-un and roulette arrived in the United States with early French settlers. Steamboats became gambling venues on the Mississippi, where wealthy traders and farmers spent their leisure time. In 1829, gamblers were playing a poker version whose origin was Persia in the 17th century. 

Gambling mechanization meant that humans could regulate winnings more accurately. Pitt and Sittman developed the first gambling machine in New York. At around that time, Charles Fey invented the Liberty Bell machine. The first video slot invention happened in 1976, paving the way for the current versions of video slots that gamblers play online. 

The Evolution of Land-based Casinos 

For millions of individuals across the world, casinos are their favorite pastime. Some of these establishments have turned players into millionaires. Humans have engaged in different forms of gambling since ancient times. Over the years, they have used various gambling games for recreational purposes. 

Humans derived the word “casino” from the Italian term “Casa,” whose literal meaning is a small villa or summerhouse. Later, people used this word when referring to a building or place where people went to play games or for pleasure. Ancient Italy had such facilities in large palace complexes or villas where people could go when they wanted to dance, listen to music, and engage in other forms of entertainment. 

Later in the 19th century, humans improved the interiors of casinos, making them more luxurious. As a result, these establishments started offering services whose comfort level was unprecedented. At this point, society expected self-respecting persons to appear in casinos. Also, casinos became places where people met to discuss hot political issues. 

Prosperous citizens in European countries and America were enthusiastic about casinos. However, most casinos closed down towards the end of the 19th century due to gambling legislation amendments. For instance, Monte Carlo was the only casino that stayed afloat in Europe because it didn’t have gambling restrictions.

Additionally, the tiny Monaco principality started becoming popular towards the end of the 19th century. With passing time, this experience gained in the gambling business, leading to establishing the gambling capital in the U.S, Las Vegas. 

Early Gambling Establishments that Open to Visitors Today 

Some of the ancient casinos are open visitors even today. For instance, Villa Giulia and Villa Farnese in Italy are available to gamblers up to this day. However, it’s crucial to note that the term casino later referred to properties with recreational activities like games, sports, and gambling. 

But people did not use all casinos for gambling in the olden times. For instance, people used Copenhagen Casino as a theater, yet during the 1848 revolution, they used the building for meetings. Until 1937, people used the casino as a theater. 

The Hanko also served as a casino in Finland. The Hanko was a banquet for noble Russian families, and people use it as a restaurant even today. The Hank remains a famous landmark in the city. In Catalina Island, the Avalon Harbor remains a renowned casino. However, people have never used it for card games or gambling. 

Among the earliest known casinos in Italy is Casino di Venezia. This casino exists even today, and people gamble in it. People referred to the early casinos as the saloons in the U.S. New Orleans, Saint Louis, Chicago, and San Francisco were the first cities to establish casinos or saloons. These cities attracted many people from different places because of their importance in commerce and trade. And these people were meeting in salons to drink and gamble. 

But because of different laws and social reforms, gambling was illegal in the 20th century. Nevertheless, gambling was legal in Nevada, explaining why Las Vegas emerged as a gambling city. One of the oldest and still operating casinos in this city is Railroad Pass. Despite having been around for decades, this casino provides a comfortable place for gamblers. 

Early Land-Based Casino Games 

Some people think the casino concept is relatively modern. However, history reveals that gambling and gaming have always been an aspect of human societies’ fabric. And almost all cultures have some connections with gambling. The origins of games like poker and blackjack that you can play in a high stakes casino today are deep in land-based casino history. 

Although some gamblers stick to popular table games to fix their online gaming, some modern titles have fascinating origins. 

Card-Based Casino Games History 

Some of the earliest gambling forms involved cards. And the earliest playing cards date to the 1100s. Archaeologists discovered these cards in China. Essentially, dice and card games were the most popular forms of gambling in ancient China. However, people credit the French with the creation of a modern card deck with blackjack and poker. But humans developed blackjack hundreds of years later in New Orleans in the 19th century. 

Historians believe that humans invented the quick-fire game to allow gamblers to enjoy this game while taking short breaks. At this time, slavery was still rampant in the United States. Thus, people that were playing the game were most likely slaves. 

In other cultures, people used tokens instead of cards. Even today, some people use tokens to gamble. For instance, Mah-jong, a Chinese game, uses wooden or ornate ceramic tokens. 

Dice Casino Games History 

Humans developed dice games before card games. Initially, humans used dice in fortune telling in ancient Egypt. Next, they made dice using animal bones. Eventually, bone-rolling became entertainment and a way to gamble. 

Some historians argue that Egypt is the homeland of casino dice games. However, current dice games emerged in Korea. And the thrill that dice games provide has made them popular among gamblers over the years. People enjoy dice games like craps in modern casinos. 

Slot Machines History 

Not every casino game has an ancient origin. Nevertheless, Charles Fey developed the first slot machine in California in the late 1800s. His invention revolutionized how people gambled within a short period by introducing casual gamers to the lucky spin thrill. It’s, therefore, not a coincidence that gambling in riverboats became famous as an American pastime at this time. 

Blackjack History 

Blackjack’s origin is somewhat unknown to historians. Some argue that blackjack appeared in French casinos for the first time in the 1700s as Vingt-et-Un. And this translates to 21. However, some historians think this game has its roots in Spain. That’s because Spanish gamblers could play one and thirty, which is a three-card blackjack version. In this game, a player had to get closer to 31. Therefore, some historians argue that this version influenced the Ving-et-Un that later appeared in French casinos. 

However, this doesn’t mark the end of the speculation. Historians have proven that the Romans loved old flutter on things like gladiator battles and numerical blocks games. Some argue that a simple blackjack version among the Romans entailed giving wooden numbered blocks to a player that they could use to bet on the combination with the highest value. 

Up to now, blackjack’s origin remains unclear. Nevertheless, many gamblers enjoy playing this game in land-based casinos. 

Land-Based Casinos Today 

Since their introduction, land-based casinos have gone through several changes. They have also been through turbulent times during their history. But change is always inevitable in all industries, whether bad or good. 

Over the years, land-based casinos have provided a pastime to many people worldwide. To some people, going to a land-based casino offers a chance to leave the house or the comfort zone and have some quality time in a social setting. Ideally, modern land-based casinos provide venues for people to meet and have fun.

Also, land-based casinos offer many rewards and promos in the form of free drinks for players. And this is a unique experience that many players want to enjoy more often. The buzz of dealers and conversational players, combined with slots ringing sounds in the background, characterize the land-based casino atmosphere. And this is something that most gamblers love enjoying more often. 

Perhaps, the primary advantage of land-based casinos is providing a social setting. Here, a gambler can practice a unique technique against competitors, converse with other slot players, compete, and relax. The pleasant excursion that land-based casinos offer makes them relevant even when people can play online without leaving their homes or offices.  

Today, gamblers have all types of land-based casinos that cater to their unique needs. Nevertheless, modern land-based casinos provide quite lively atmospheres. Flashing lights, smoke clouds above the tables, and loud music characterize some of these casinos. Perhaps, this is the thrill that makes these establishments feel alive in the digital age. Many people love dressing up to visit a local casino. That’s because their busy lives don’t give them the pleasure to do so more often.

At the gambling table, land-based casinos let players meet new faces and socialize. That’s because these casinos have actual dealers and real players at the tables. And gamblers experience this human element in all games. 

Land-based casinos have undoubtedly made a mark in human history. And these establishments won’t go away anytime soon. That’s because brick-and-mortar casinos remain significant in some players’ minds. For example, a player that wants to enjoy a tactile experience with different casino games will always want to visit a land-based casino. 

A casino-themed environment has something exceptional for some people. For instance, some gamblers love the company of others when gambling, while some enjoy flashy lights and loud noises inside a land-based casino. 

Perhaps, what makes these establishments more appealing are their unique architectures and interiors. Additionally, most casinos have unique, individual themes that make them stand out. Even a person that gambles online will want to enjoy gambling in a land-based casino at least once. That’s because gambling in a brick-and-mortar casino is completely different from gambling in an online casino. 

The Future of Land-based Casinos 

Land-based casinos have been around since the 17th century. However, the journey hasn’t been easy for these establishments because they have battled changing regulations and laws. Today, smartphones and the internet have changed how some people gamble. With some people opting to gamble online, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, online casinos arguably threaten land-based establishments. Nevertheless, some people still love going to a brick-and-mortar building to gamble. That means land-based casinos will remain a preference for some players. And these will enable these establishments to thrive into the future. 

Although the future may seem challenging for land-based casinos, innovative operators will remain competitive and relevant by keeping up with the latest technologies. For instance, land-based casino operators may include advanced gaming machines or use a combination of technologies to maintain enticing lobbies. Thus, they can use the technology causing the current shakeup in the land-based casino industry to save their establishments. 

If a land-based casino fails to innovate, it might perish because of stiff competition from online casinos. But, land-based casino operators that remain diligent and work hard will survive the competition and stay profitable. Alternatively, land-based casinos can provide live games to online players from their brick-and-mortar establishments. That way, they can maintain both local and online presence while making their land-based casinos relevant in the digital era. 

Some land-based casinos already have their online versions. And this is enabling them to thrive in an industry that some people expected to die. Almost all continents have operational land-based casinos, showing that this industry is not collapsing any time soon. However, successful land-based casinos have improved their games. 

For instance, the best land-based casinos today combine different forms of entertainment. Thus, players visit these establishments to enjoy more than slot machines and table games. Such establishments may offer award-winning palatial accommodations, epic shows, dining, vibrant night light, unique attractions like circuses, park zoos, and much more. Consequently, some land-based casinos have become popular tourist attractions. 

The Bottom Line

The history of land-based casinos shows that gambling is as old as humanity itself. That’s because archaeologists have discovered artifacts proving that humans were gambling since ancient times. However, the first land-based casino appeared in Venice in the 17th century. This establishment began a journey that has faced all sorts of challenges, including changes in gambling legislation and casino bans. 

Today, the world boasts of vibrant land-based casinos where people go to have fun and mingle. These establishments offer different types of games from which gamblers choose based on their preferences. Modern land-based casinos provide innovative and exciting settings for people that love leaving their comfort zones and going out to meet happy people. What’s more, modern brick-and-mortar casinos allow gamers to win lucrative prizes. 

Nevertheless, online casinos threaten land-based establishments by taking away players who prefer gambling on their computers and smartphones. But by being innovative, land-based casinos can provide better entertainment to gamblers and remain relevant even in the current digital age. Thus, land-based casinos can remain relevant in the digital world by embracing innovation.