When it comes to casino images, the glitz and glamor of the Las Vegas Strip is usually the first that comes to mind. Yet some casinos are extremely old, dating far beyond the great metropolis of Nevada and the resort towns of Asia. Some of them are woven into the fabric of their country’s history, and one of them is the Casino di Venezia, the oldest casino in the world.
The Casino of Venice
Gambling in one form or another has been around since the dawn of civilization. Romans to Elizabethan England, most societies have had some form of favorite game or sport on which to place bets. However, the first official gambling house, commonly identified as a casino, originated in Venice, Italy.
The Casino di Venezia opened in 1638. It began life as a theater, which had a wing reserved for gambling during intermissions. However, in 1946, it changed location to Ca’ Vendramin Calergi.
It was a palace, built in the 15th century, for the royal family. It fits perfectly with the beautiful architecture of the city, as it was designed by Mauro Codussi who had also created many religious buildings in the region. Adorned with frescoes and paintings by the Italian masters of the time, many of them can still be seen in the building today.
As the residence of Italian royalty, it has hosted many famous guests. One of his best known was Richard Wagner, who often frequented the palace on his vacations. He was welcomed there by the owners in 1882 where he began to work on his score for Parsifal until his death. Today, a Wagner museum remains in the rooms he frequented, which includes documents, letters and unique objects used by the musician.
The casino is truly unique due to its location. It has water access, with a jetty that allows gondolas to drop you right outside the door. Its restaurant is dedicated to Wagner and inside you will find a huge range of table games and slot machines. The casino frequently hosts tournaments for professionals, such as the World Series of Poker.
The Kurhaus casino, located in the Baden Baden region of Germany, follows closely. It was once described by Marlene Dietrich as the “most beautiful casino in the world”and with its superb belle epoque ornamentation, it would be hard to disagree.
It became popular in the 1830s, when the game was banned in France. Many people then crossed the border for entertainment and the casino became a haven for famous and wealthy people of the time. In 1972 and 1933, however, it fell on hard times and closed for a while. It remains the destination of choice for those with plenty of money to gamble.
Monte Carlo Casino
Perhaps the most famous old casino in Europe is the Casino de Monte Carlo. The back story is as impressive as its architecture.
In 1854, the Maison Grimaldi, owner of the Principality of Monaco, experienced financial difficulties. They embarked on a project to build a spa hotel and casino. This would attract people to the area and hopefully bring them some nice income.
However, that was not to be the case. A lack of access to Monaco and poor marketing meant that very few visitors frequented the establishment. It was not until 1859 that the casino would start making a profit. It is still the main source of income for the Grimaldi family and for Monaco itself.
The casino itself is also famous for several reasons. The first Women’s Olympiad took place in its gardens in the 1920s. He also has a long history with film and television, having appeared in three James Bond films, the heist movie Ocean’s Twelve and even several animated feature films.