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Casinos have long been a part of the human experience. Whether it's the mystifying lights and exciting sounds or simply the thrill of winning a game, most of us have had some kind of experience at a casino. Casinos are a fantasy world where anything seems possible. You could enter with enough cash to buy a good cup of coffee and end up leaving in a brand new car.
Most casinos, no matter where they are located, lean into the fantasy. Prime examples are the monumental southern hemisphere sensations brought to life by Sol Kerzner. These amazing businesses bring the glamour, romance, and cobblestone walkways of small Mediterranean villages to the shores of Southern Africa.
An incredible example of living your fantasy at one of our local casinos is Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall. Established in 1971 in Dawson City, Yukon, this historic gambling house brings alive the fantasy of an 1898 western saloon during the Gold Rush. While it's far from the oldest gambling establishment globally, it's the oldest in Canada, which makes it more than deserving of a mention.
The first formal gambling establishments appeared in the 1600s during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Needless to say, people have been gambling in grand halls for a very long time. Here's a look at the oldest casinos in the world.
It comes as no surprise that the oldest brick-and-mortar casino in the world sprang up in Italy. After all, the word casinò is of Italian origin, meaning a small, stately country house used for hunting or fishing trips. At some point, fishing and hunting ‘game’ turned into playing games like Gilet and Primero in these traditional stately homes.
Casino de Venezia was designed and constructed by an enterprising Italian architect, Mauro Codussi. The building was initially built as a theatre, more commonly known as the Theatre Saint Moses. An entire wing of the theatre was dedicated to gambling, which reportedly occurred during intermissions. The establishment of such buildings is primarily the reason why the Venetian State capital became known for gambling. Around 120 casinos dotted Venice by 1744.
Not many people know this, but Belgium was the birthplace of the Spa. Spa is a quaint historic town in Belgium. All the world's wealthiest would flock to Belgium in their most exquisite finery to bathe in the so-called healing waters. However, the town rose to fame as a casino town in the 18th century. Since then, throughout the world, spas have copied the idea of providing a gaming hall to entertain their guests.
Two city mayors, Xhrouet Lambers and Gerard de Leau, constructed the first Casino de Spa in 1763, intending to give their aristocratic patrons an even more exclusive experience of the finest things in life. Today, Casino de Spa remains a deliciously decadent place to don your finest and flirt with Lady Luck. In addition to traditional casino games, they also now offer a few slots. They also host tournaments regularly.
Following the lead of Casino de Spa, this exquisite venue is also a spa resort and casino. Initially designed in 1824, this casino only became a prominent feature of the German landscape in 1834. This is because it wasn’t possible to gamble in France at the time. Consequently, a lot of French gambling enthusiasts crossed the border to try their luck. Within no time, the casino became an international draw due to the reputation its French popularity had garnered.
The casino is still operational today. You'll have quite a memorable time playing here. Don’t miss the enormous chandeliers and murals painted in intricate detail that decorate the main gambling hall.
Also known as the Grand Casino, Casino de Montecarlo has been fully operational since 1856. Designed in the awe-inspiring Belle Époque architectural style, Casino de Monte-Carlo is the centerpiece of the tiny but opulent principality of Monaco.
A little-known fact is that it was the brainchild of Princess Caroline, wife of Prince Florestan of the House of Grimaldi, Monaco's ruling family. Revenues from the casino helped the House of Grimaldi avoid bankruptcy, according to historical reports. It also served as inspiration for Casino Royale in Ian Fleming's action-packed spy novel with the same name.
The casino is currently run by a publicly owned company, though the government of Monaco and the country's royal family hold the majority of the shares.
Located at One Fremont Street, the Golden Gate Casino is the oldest in Las Vegas. John F. Miller bought the land on which the original hotel was built in 1905. Then called the Miller Hotel, it was a simple tented structure while Miller was planning the construction of a more permanent facility.
Miller's dream was eventually realized, and the Hotel Nevada opened its doors in 1906. The success of Hotel Nevada and its in-house casino was short-lived, and gambling ceased in 1909 when a statewide gambling ban took effect. However, the ban would not be the end of the prolific Hotel's story, and it reopened later that year when the ban was lifted. The building was renamed the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino in 1955, a name it proudly still carries.
Today, the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino is more extensive than before, having had a multimillion-dollar expansion into space formerly taken up by the La Bayou casino as well as the alleyway that ran between the two buildings. The 2017 expansion added 100 new slot machines, doubled the casino's size, added a new casino entrance, and extended the popular outdoor hotspot, the OneBar.
Each of the casinos we've covered has a unique charm and is worth a visit. Make the gambler’s pilgrimage to Vegas, or take the opportunity to play where the highest ranks of old European aristocracy let their hair down. While you're there, see what else the various cities have to offer. Experience the opulent old-world architecture and design and immerse yourself in the culture. You'll likely walk away with exciting stories and experiences, and who knows, maybe even a jackpot.