The History of the Casino Industry

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A Brief History

In 1638, the Great Council of Venice established the first known European gambling house, the Ridotto, which was not called a casino although it meets the modern definition.  The casino industry is now one of the most lucrative sectors in the world, and generates revenues of over $45 billion each year. By 2024, it is expected to bring in a staggering $94.4 billion. This impressive growth has come about thanks to the internet and the rise of online casinos. Gambling houses existed for an incredibly long time before this spike in the modern era, though, and games of chance have been written about across centuries of history. Here we examine the early history of casinos, and analyze how the internet brought about such a dramatic upturn in their popularity.

Digging Deeper

Gambling Houses and the Rise of Places like Vegas

In the USA, gambling originally took place in saloons. Games would range from card offerings like poker and blackjack, to knife games like five-finger fillet. Players would bet against each other to enhance the games. Around the turn of the 20th Century, slot machines were invented and rolled out across the land. These were three-reel mechanical offerings, on which players had to pull a lever and try to match symbols. Gambling was outlawed in the States in the early 1900s, but the state of Nevada legalized it again in 1931. This led to a number of casinos cropping up in that region, and is the reason why Las Vegas grew into one of the world’s biggest gambling hotspots.

During the great construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, the population of Las Vegas swelled from around 5000 people to 25,000. This led to a rise of entertainment in the area, with casinos playing a major role. Vegas enjoyed its most explosive growth in the 1970s, which was also when gambling was made legal in some other places including New Jersey, the home of Atlantic City. Vegas was getting more attention in the mainstream at this time, and was also attracting big name celebrities like Frank Sinatra who helped to promote the city. The popularity of Vegas led casino owners across the world to try and recreate a similar kind of exhilarating experience. Games like roulette, craps, and baccarat became world famous.

Online Casinos in the Internet Era

The gambling industry has always been open to change, and has embraced technology over the years. This has been seen most notably with slot machines, which have evolved greatly since Charles Fey released the Liberty Bell in 1895. For a long while the games were purely mechanical, but then they embraced electricity in the 1960s. The first electromechanical slot was called Money Honey, developed by Bally in 1963.

Online gambling began to take off in the late 1990s. In 1996, there were 15 websites which offered players a chance to stake on games of chance. This increased to 200 by 1997, and from then on the growth was exponential.

As internet speeds became much faster in the 2000s, the number of online casinos in existence multiplied. Players were suddenly able to get a casino gambling experience in their homes, and it was easy and convenient. There is so much competition in the industry now that thousands of operators are competing to be the best online casino. There are specialist sites detailing the characteristics of the best casino sites, and players can click here to get more information.

The online casino industry has allowed for a number of innovations to come about. Slot games, in particular, have benefited from the digital technology and have become highly advanced over the last ten years. Nowadays, most slot games have five reels, exciting side games, music, cut scenes, and numerous win lines. Classic games like roulette and blackjack have also undergone some changes, and there are now themed variants of the games and diverse ways of playing. Multi-wheel roulette is a prime example of this.

The online casino industry continues to go through changes as it seeks to get even bigger. One of the main aims of the sector has always been to try to recreate a real casino experience for players at home, and this is being done by incorporating new technology like live streaming. This enables players to watch live video links to real games and stake on them in the same way they would if they were in a casino. They can sometimes even chat to and tip the dealer. The next step in refining this experience could be done using virtual reality. The technology may be able to provide players with the feeling that they are actually sitting in a casino.

The casino industry has a long and rich history, but most of its progress has occurred in the last twenty years. With technology advancing at an astonishing rate, there are likely to be more leaps forward in the evolution of the casino industry in the near future.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Carpenter, Mike.  Las Vegas The Grand: The Strip, the Casinos, the Mob, the Stars.  Independently published, 2017.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by BrendelSignature at English Wikipedia showing the en:Las Vegas Strip facing south, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Subject to disclaimers.


About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland