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A Brief History of Gambling Houses

August 27, 2019

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Gambling (in some form or another) is believed to have existed in almost every society in human history. From the early Greeks to Victorian England, gambling and games of chance have made their mark on the world. In this short blog post, we’re going to give a brief primer on the long and varied history of gambling locations.

Archaeological evidence has shown that gambling most likely pre-dates recorded human history, in fact ancient primitive dice (sometimes made from carved knuckle bones!) are found in archaeological sites around the world. The earliest confirmed evidence of gambling is from 2300 BCE in ancient China. In archaeological sites around the country, ancient tiles used for archaic games of chance were unearthed.

In Western history, gambling was technically illegal, but gambling houses were often largely ignored by the authorities and were frequented by both the upper and lower classes. But the first legal gambling house (that we know of) was not opened until the seventeenth century in Italy. The government of Venice decided they could better control the gambling craze sweeping the upper classes of western Europe if they opened a state-sanctioned gambling house – and they could make a pretty penny by taking a cut of the profits! In 1683, Venice authorized the opening of The Ridotto – a four-story gambling house with private rooms for high stakes games and a lavish selection of food and beverages with entertainment to keep the gamblers happy. Though it was not known as a casino yet (that term would come much later), it is the first iteration of the modern casino you see around the world now.

In fact, the word casino actually comes from Italian roots and originally referred to a small villa or social club where different activities or gatherings took place. Many prestigious European buildings are referred to as casinos despite never hosting any sort of public gambling. In some parts of the world, casinos may refer to large cafeterias or military mess halls.

In traditional American history, early gambling houses were often known as saloons. Saloons became large social gathering places and were places where travelers and townspeople could socialize, drink, and gamble. The proliferation of the American saloon was greatly influenced by the four largest gambling cities in the early nation: New Orleans, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Horse racing gained popularity in the 1830’s in Illinois and many prestigious casino riverboats began to appear all over the state by the early 1840’s. Throughout America, gambling was outlawed or strictly monitored after the Civil War.

It wasn’t until 1927 that Illinois made horse racing and related betting legal after a renewed interest in the racetracks. This would become the first truly legalized form of gambling in the state of Illinois. In 1974, Illinois created their state lottery and passed the Riverboat Casino Act in 1990 – which allowed for the creation of up to ten casinos in the state. At the time, the riverboats were forced to go out to water at least every two hours, but this proved to be unsustainable and was repealed in 1999.

On July 13, 2009 Illinois passed the Illinois Video Gaming Act which allowed for slot machines and video gaming terminals to be placed into certain licensed Illinois establishments. The first establishments would go live with video gaming by late 2012, and the industry has only grown since then!

Gambling and gaming have had a long journey, but it is still as popular now as it was back in 2300 BC! And whether it be in a casino or an AE location, you can still feel the same thrill that our early ancestors felt when they made a bet and played a game of chance!








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