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A History of Casinos


When we mention the word casino, the vision that comes to mind are luxurious and glittering establishments, offering the latest and greatest games, from cards to roulette to slots. Yet while casinos today evoke images of glitz and glamour, such was not always the case.

Although gambling was brought in by the English settlers in the late 1600s, and spread quickly through the East, the establishment of gambling venues took longer. The earliest "casinos" were nothing more than dusty taverns and saloons that provided travelers with gambling games.

During the 1800s, however, as the population increased, so did the popularity of gambling in other parts of the United States. After the Revolution, a new gambling venue became popular, the riverboat. Traversing the Mississippi, New Orleans Ohio and other nearby states, these gambling centers became the place for people to gamble and socialize.

At the same time, gambling halls, the precursor to casinos, were established in cities like New York and Chicago, Catering to the affluent, these gambling halls would evolve to become casinos, and would come under the management of businessmen.

During the late 1800s to the early 1900s, casinos (which had become widespread) were shut down as controversy surrounded the gambling industry. However, the Great Depression led to the legalization of gambling again, and it was in Nevada, in 1931, that the casino as we know it came into being.

When Nevada legalized gambling in the 1930s, the result was increased revenues for the city, and other states would follow suit. In 1941, the El Rancho Hotel Casino was opened, and its success spawned a hotel casino construction boom that would evolve to become the Strip.

During the 1940s and 50s, several casinos that would become classics opened, including The Last Frontier, the Desert Inn, the Flamingo, the Sahara Hotel and the Moulin Rouge. Despite a Senate inquiry about the links between gambling and mob syndicates, the casino boom continued, with the emergence of Caesar's Palace, the Riviera, Stardust and the Tropicana.

During the 1970s, the hotel casinos in Las Vegas and other states would become mega resorts, catering not just to gamblers but entire families, travelers and tourists. These establishments would encompass theme parks, rides, man made waterfalls, rapids, and circuses. Over the years added attractions like theaters, concert venues, firework displays and light shows would become standard for all gambling establishments.

Never before in its history have casinos gained such wide acceptance as they do today, in the United States and in other parts of the world. With the advances in air and sea travel, communications technology and the Internet, casinos are sure to reach out to more people.