Casinos and Games That Have Stood the Test of Time

Oldest Casinos and Games image

📖 Published on: March 7th, 2024

✍️ Updated: March 15th, 2024

⏳ 13 mins read


The world of casino-going isn’t a new concept and goes back to colonial times with a deep history that has contributed to the way people view and experience merry-making and entertainment. You might think gambling came to fruition during the prohibition era, but it’s been around since the 1680s in upper-class Virginia, where horse race betting became a popular activity.


Today, betting is as simplified as pulling a 50 from your friend when they lose a silly bet or walking into a casino and finding everyone from all walks of life deliberately trying to score jackpots here and there. In this blog, we’ll walk you down memory lane and show you some of the oldest casino games and casino establishments in the great US of A.


A Spanish Man’s Finding: Blackjack


You might know it as Blackjack, but this Spanish table game was first coined as “21.” Its origins were traced back to Miguel de Cervantes, the renowned author of Don Quixote, who talked about the game and strategy in an epic novel, later termed “Veintiuna,” which means twenty-one in Spanish. If you’ve read the original Don Quixote then you’ll know the 1600s reference of Blackjack was mostly played by locals of Seville in Spain.


Now, your grandparents probably remember it as a French-originated game, but it was actually popularized in English card clubs in the 19th century. Once it made its way to American casinos, the dynamics of the game kind of shifted to keep players coming back for more. This is where casinos added bonus hands that included both blackjack and ace of spades. You’re probably thinking, “That doesn’t apply anymore, though…” Well, you’re right! Since this bonus hand was ineffective in the long term and many casinos found it useless, the bonus hand was then axed out of the game altogether.


Canterbury Tales and the Origins of Craps


A New Orleans staple, the game of craps was first played in the early 18th century. The elites in New Orleans weren’t shy of playing this new table game then, which was a game introduced to New Orleans casinos by London socialite Bernard de Marigny.


But if you dare go deep into its history, craps can be traced back to 14th-century England. A version of it was called “hazard” and it made an appearance in the English classic, Geoffry Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.


How fascinating is that? Hazard was then carried over to North America where it made its way to Louisiana and was referred to as “Crebs” or “Creps” by many locals. Craps became a game people played in the streets and back alleys, making it a game the proletariats enjoyed as much as the elites in the casinos.

Casinos in the 60s image


A Mathematician’s Accident: French Roulette


This obviously French-founded game might be tricky to trace back in terms of its origins, but the fact that it was started in France in the mid-1600s is true (hence its name!). In fact, Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, made it a thing. Can you imagine a guy really good at math just randomly making up a game ‘cause he was bored? We can’t!


Pascal accidentally built a roulette wheel in 1655 which was actually intended to be the first motion machine - but instead, it was never completed. It then became the wheel that defined roulette as a casino game in the late 1700s as it made its way to metropolitan Paris.


As you’ve already figured, roulette was claimed by the French upper class. And of course, it gained traction by appearing in another famous author’s book, Jacques Lablee’s “La Roulette, ou Histoire d’un Joueur.” Spinning the wheel was a joy only French aristocrats would experience in gaming parlors before the French Revolution.


French Quebec and America’s Wheel


Of course, as trends travel, roulette finally made its way to North America, landing in French Quebec, Canada in the 1900s. Fast forward to New Orleans in the mid-1900s when American Roulette was born with modifications on the wheel that included three “zero” pockets instead of what many recognize as two in the wheel, today. The thing about this little edit is that they made one pocket with an American eagle in it; how fittingly American, isn’t it?


The American eagle on the third pocket isn’t the only modification that didn’t seem to make sense, the extra pocket also ensured the house edge went up to a whopping 12.9%. Now, this became a rather questionable version, and it made it far enough to New Orleans before they scrapped it back to two “zero” pockets, making it the crowd-favorite version of many American roulette players today.


A Kids’ Poem turned into Casino’s Keno


If you’re a lottery buff, then Keno is a familiar game. It’s also one of those lottery-style games that not many are familiar with but is a 19th-century Chinese invention that became a hit among many American gamblers. If you like rhymes and lullabies to put you to sleep as a kid, lo and behold; this is how Keno came to be.


An ancient children’s poem known as the “Thousand Character Classic”, was a tool for kids to learn how to read. The poem made it easy for children since the characters were never repeated. Other historians also found Keno to have been invented simultaneously with the Great Wall of China. It became a beloved game by the military and a means to raise funds for the construction of the said wall.


Nevada and the Legalization of Keno


As time went on, rampant immigration influenced Chinese migrants to take these games with them and make their way to North America in the 19th century. Now, picture Nevada in 1936, when a guy named Warren Nelson brought Keno to Reno Casino’s The Palace Club where it was restructured as a game. It then became a lottery game that battled Nevada law for years until it became legal in the early sixties.


Five of the World’s Casinos That Have Stood the Test of Time


Now that we’ve covered the oldest casino games, it’s time we give some historical context to the oldest casinos in the world. We all know gambling has a rich history and if people aren’t enough to make this a fact, then places like Golden Gate Casino and Sun City are some renowned casinos that might help you paint a full picture. Here are some of the world’s oldest casinos you have probably heard of or didn’t know about. Either way, read on and find out.


1. Monaco: Casino de Monte Carlo (1865)


You might think back to the James Bond films Never Say Never Again and Casino Royale, but try thinking as far back as 1863 when the Prince of Monaco, Charles III, built a vibrant establishment as a way to bring in more money into Monaco after an economic crisis.


Monaco might indeed be a tiny country, but what many don’t know is that its government had the hardest time generating taxes to keep Monaco afloat. So, Prince Charles III introduced Casino de Monte Carlo to the elites, travelers, and entertainment enthusiasts.


It stands out as one of the most stunning establishments in Monte Carlo that showcases splendid Mediterranean-inspired design and architecture that caught Frenchman Francois Blanc’s eye. Blanc was a casino operator and entrepreneur who ended up buying the Monte Carlo staple just a few years after its construction.


2. USA: Golden Gate Casino (1905)


Golden Gate Casino image


Since 1905, Las Vegas has taken pride in its historical establishments like the Golden Gate Casino, the first-ever casino in the state of Nevada. This relic survived the prohibition and shifted from being a hotel (Hotel Nevada) founded by John F. Miller to a fully operational casino in 1931. What’s even more interesting about this casino is that it invented the famous bar special: the shrimp cocktail!


Of course, like many tourist attractions and entertainment centers, Golden Gate Casino rebranded in 1955 and went through a recent renovation in 2017. A few of its crowd-pleasers are the living gaming area, high-limit gaming area, credit programs, and of course, its nightly dancing dealers!


3. Chile: Viña del Mar (1930)


South America’s Chile has been a big patron of gambling culture since the mid-1800s. Its prominent Viña del Mar was the first land-based casino that has grown to be a licensed and operational institution that provides hotel and resort accommodations to many locals, tourists, and high-stakes gamblers alike.


Chile’s president in 1928 was Carlos Ibañez del Campo, who had big plans of building the country’s tourism and recreation sector. He then authorized a municipal gambling house, which launched on December 31, 1930. Beloved for its ocean view, art-deco interiors, and lush greenery, this Chilean casino is also home to popular table games like poker, blackjack, roulette, and slots.

4. Macau: Hotel Lisboa (1970)


Ah, now let’s make our way to the East where we’ll find the gambling hub of China, Macau. Home to the famous Hotel Lisboa, this gambler’s go-to has been a part of Macau culture for centuries. It was opened by Chinese tycoon Stanley Ho as part of the extension plan for Hotel Lisboa.


High rollers from all over China and the rest of the world come to Hotel Lisboa to enjoy its variety of casino games like roulette, blackjack, poker, baccarat, and more. This institution grew when it was expanded in 1991 and then again in 2006 when the Grand Lisboa was born. If you’re not convinced by the 230 table games, the Hotel Lisboa also boasts a stunning art gallery, over 2,000 rooms, a two-story spa, and a temperature-controlled outdoor pool, among other luxurious amenities.


5. Australia: Wrest Point Casino (1973)


Down under we go, to the Wrest Point Casino. This Australian gambling house opened in 1973 and remains the tallest building in Tasmania. This was a brain-baby by many Australian hoteliers who built this casino in the effort to build tourism in the early 70s.


This became a widely contested project which eventually made its way to a state referendum that gained 53% of voters’ approval. Fast forward to 2024, and Wrest Point has made its way to one of the world’s best heritage sites. The 17-story tower offers a wide array of casino table games from poker up to 650 slot machines. Hobart is also a sight to behold, thanks to the 360-degree view you can get from their in-house restaurant, The Point Revolving Restaurant.


Scaling the Cards of History


Knowing a little more than you should about casino history is probably the last thing you intend when you’re on the casino floor or enjoying poker online, but it’s always a great way to win trivia night, right? From Don Quijote’s blackjack to Prince Charles III’s beloved Casino de Monte Carlo, there’s a lot these casino games and historical sites have to offer. It’s just up to you to see it and experience it first-hand!


Learn more about iGaming landscape in the US from our blogs at GambleSpot today.


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