When you hear “casino”, you most likely see the lights of Las Vegas or the amazing resorts of Macau in front of you. But there’s more to this word than just an industry making billions each year. The word “casino” has a long history, and the Old World has some landmarks that attest its heritage.
Europeans look at casinos differently when you compare them to Americans. There gambling is regulated, and people of legal age are free to visit land-based casinos, or play royal vegas casino games on the go, whenever they please. For most, casinos mean buildings in which the noblemen of the old times spent their time and money, rather than places to worship Mammon (the godlike demon of wealth).
Europe’s oldest casinos are far from just being places of gambling – although they still function as such today. The oldest building still active as a casino is in Venice, known as the Casinó di Venezia. It was built as a home for a local noble family in 1509, and transformed into a casino in 1638. Its location – it faces Venice’s Grand Canal – and its lush décor make it a worthy sight to be seen by tourists. Its interiors are a testament of its noble past – its gambling halls have some of the most beautiful chandeliers, murals and sculptures you can see at such a facility. Truthful to its name, it doesn’t lack gaming opportunities – it offers table games like Chemin de Fer, roulette and blackjack, along with hundreds of modern slot machines.
Casino de Monte Carlo is not only one of the oldest, but maybe the most famous casino in the world. Built in 1856, the casino has attracted the “cream” of the European high society in its glory days. It has served an inspiration for Iam Fleming’s Casino Royale, and was featured in several James Bond films, as well as in the blockbuster Ocean’s Twelve. The complex contains concert halls, restaurants, shopping venues and a theater. An interesting fact: residents of Monaco are forbidden from visiting the casino – the security agents of the facility check the IDs of anyone entering the premises.
Perhaps one of the most visited casino resorts of the 19th century, Casino Wiesbaden, is in a well known spa resort in Germany. Built in 1810, its goal was to attract the members of the European nobility through its high quality services and beautiful interiors. The gaming rooms are decorated with mosaics, Greek statues and crystal chandeliers. Visitors can enjoy not just its gambling services, but also a spa, theaters and concert halls, a banquet hall and several restaurants. Kaiser (German for Emperor) Wilhelm II has called the Wiesbaden Kurhaus “the most beautiful spa building in the world” – and it still keeps that distinction today.