A casino is a facility for certain types of gambling. Casinos are often built near or combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shopping, cruise ships, and other tourist attractions. Some casinos are also known for hosting live entertainment, such as stand-up comedy, concerts, and sports.
Casino is of Italian origin; the root casa means a house. The term casino may mean a small country villa, summerhouse, or social club. During the 19th century, casino came to include other public buildings where pleasurable activities took place; such edifices were usually built on the grounds of a larger Italian villa or palazzo, and were used to host civic town functions, including dancing, gambling, music listening, and sports. Examples in Italy include Villa Farnese and Villa Giulia, and in the US the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island. In modern-day Italian, a casino is a brothel (also called casa chiusa, literally “closed house”), a mess (confusing situation), or a noisy environment; a gaming house is spelt casinò, with an accent.
Not all casinos are used for gaming. The Catalina Casino, on Santa Catalina Island, California, has never been used for traditional games of chance, which were already outlawed in California by the time it was built. The Copenhagen Casino was a Danish theatre which also held public meetings during the 1848 Revolution, which made Denmark a constitutional monarchy.
The precise origin of gambling is unknown. It is generally believed that gambling in some form or another has been seen in almost every society in history. From the Ancient Greeks and Romans to Napoleon’s France and Elizabethan England, much of history is filled with stories of entertainment based on games of chance.
The first known European gambling house, not called a casino although meeting the modern definition, was the Ridotto, established in Venice, Italy, in 1638 by the Great Council of Venice to provide controlled gambling during the carnival season. It was closed in 1774 as the city government felt it was impoverishing the local gentry.
In American history, early gambling establishments were known as saloons. The creation and importance of saloons was greatly influenced by four major cities: New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco. It was in the saloons that travelers could find people to talk to, drink with, and often gamble with. During the early 20th century in America, gambling was outlawed by state legislation. However, in 1931, gambling was legalized throughout the state of Nevada, where America’s first legalized casinos were set up. In 1976 New Jersey allowed gambling in Atlantic City, now America’s second largest gambling city.