- From Monaco and Italy to the Las Vegas Strip, famous casinos around the world weren’t always the over-the-top, slot-machine-filled giants we know today.
- The first casino was the Casinó di Venezia in Venice, Italy. It’s been operating since the 17th century and now sits along the Grand Canal in Venice, where visitors can ride up in style on a gondola.
- In 1931, following the Great Depression and construction of the Hoover Dam, Nevada became the only state in the US where casino gambling was legal. One of Las Vegas’s first casinos was the Golden Nugget Saloon, built in 1946.
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Even the most avid gamblers might be surprised to discover what some of the world’s most famous casinos looked like compared to the spacious resorts that light up the Las Vegas Strip today.
The oldest and one of the most opulent casinos in the world is the Casinó di Venezia in Venice, Italy. It’s been operating since the 17th century and now sits along the Grand Canal in Venice, where visitors can ride up in style on a gondola. Casinos in the US existed since at least the 17th century, according to a report from the journal Hospitality Review, but in 1931, Nevada was the only state to legalise casino gambling.
Here are 23 photos of iconic casinos that show how the casino experience has evolved.
Hundreds of years before the Las Vegas Strip set the tone for the American casino experience, Casinó di Venezia in Venice, Italy, opened in 1638.
The world’s oldest casino was built at the end of the 15th century by Mauro Codussi, an Italian architect who also designed a number of notable churches in Venice, according to Architectural Digest.
In the 1950s, the Casinò di Venezia was relocated from its original spot to the Grand Canal, where it remains today.
Today, gamblers at Casinò di Venezia can play traditional card games, roulette, and slot machines. Visitors can also visit the Wagner Museum, a wing of the casino that houses lithographs, paintings, letters, and other artifacts that commemorate Richard Wagner, a composer who was known for loving and writing about Venice,according to the casino’s official website.
The Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco, also known as the Grand Casino, was inaugurated in 1863.
The story of the Casino de Monte Carlo dates back to the Grimaldi dynasty, Monaco’s royal family. The casino’s architect was Charles Garnier, the same designer of the world-renowned Paris Opera house.
In order to respect gamblers’ privacy, the Casino de Monte Carlo was smaller and more intimate than today’s massive casinos and resorts.
The Casino de Monte Carlo retains its elegance and continues to attract gamblers from around the world.
Today, the historical casino is filled with a mix of American and European games, as well as rows of slot machines, Business Insider previously reported.
The Golden Nugget became one of Las Vegas’s first casinos when it opened in 1946, and helped set the tone for the city’s future as a hub for glamour and gambling.
Following the Great Depression and the construction of the Hoover Dam, casino gambling became legal in Nevada as a way of generating revenue for the state. The Golden Nugget Casino, originally called the Golden Nugget Saloon when it opened in 1946, was the first of its kind: a casino dedicated to glamour, luxury, and high-stakes betting and gaming.
People flocked to the Golden Nugget because it was a new place to socialise and gamble, and it was air-conditioned, a rare luxury at the time.
The Golden Nugget’s founder, Guy McAfee, made sure to have air-conditioning installed in the casino, which was a special feature for the 1940s, according to USA Today Travel.
The Golden Nugget’s legacy lives on, and it remains in its original Las Vegas Fremont Street location.
Dubbed the “most luxurious resort on the Fremont Street Experience” by TripAdvisor, the original Golden Nugget remains a Las Vegas classic and hotel in the city’s historic Fremont Street district.
The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas had its grand opening in 1946 as well, but it closed two weeks later after the casino lost $US300,000.
The Flamingo, which differed from the typical Old West theme prevalent in Las Vegas casinos in the early days of the city’s development, closed two weeks after it was opened, then re-opened in 1947 as the Fabulous Flamingo. In the 1940s and ’50s, the Flamingo saw performances by some of the biggest names in music and pop culture including Louis Armstrong, the Three Stooges, and Tony Martin, according to USA Today Travel.
The Flamingo has survived many name changes, but today, it shines bright as a reminder of retro Las Vegas.
Today, the Flamingo, complete with a 15,000-square-foot casino, is owned by Caesars Entertainment and remains an iconic gambling and tourist destination amid high-rise casinos, hotels, and resorts on the Las Vegas strip.
The Stardust Hotel and Casino opened in 1958 in Las Vegas. It’s best known for its signature neon sign, made popular by mid-20th century pop culture.
Some considered the Stardust to be the most grand casino and hotel built on the Las Vegas Strip during the 1950s. According to NPR, the next major casino opening in Las Vegas wasn’t until Caesars Palace in 1966.
The Stardust was also reportedly known for its connection to the mob and underground crime around the time it opened, according to the National Museum of Organised Crime and Law Enforcement.
When it opened, the Stardust had a 16,000-square-foot casino and 1,000 guest rooms, larger than any other Las Vegas hotel at the time, according to the National Museum of Organised Crime and Law Enforcement, which claims that it was “a longtime cash cow for the mob.”
But all memories of the well-loved Stardust are now in the past. The iconic casino and hotel shut its doors in 2006 following the Great Recession.
Around the time of the Stardust’s closing and building implosion, some former Stardust visitors shared their memories of the timeless establishment on Yelp.
One user, Harsh K., wrote: “You can imagine my heartbreak when last Sunday I made the massive trek up the Strip to grab my surf-and-turf dinner, and what did I find but my beloved Stardust was gone. Granted I should have known when they stopped sending me the weekly postcard about cheap rooms, but still, this was crushing.”
When Caesars Palace hotel and casino opened in 1966, the Las Vegas strip was basically a parking lot in the middle of the desert, but it inspired the future of how casinos were built and operated in the US.
The ancient Rome-inspired Caesars Palace was the first Las Vegas casino and hotel with a consistent, marketed theme, according to the History Channel. Caesars Palace brought some of the most famous entertainers of the era to the Las Vegas Strip, like Elton John and Diana Ross, as well as incredible sporting and stunt spectacles like heavyweight boxing matches featuring Muhammad Ali.
Caesars Palace has been featured in popular TV shows and films including the “The Hangover,” “The Big Short,” “Rain Man,” and “Friends.”
Following the success of Caesars Palace, casinos and resorts in the US were built taller, more grand, and with marketable themes, according to the National Museum of Organised Crime and Law Enforcement.
In 1957, the Tropicana hotel and casino opened in Las Vegas, at the time worth $US15 million, making it the most expensive hotel and casino resort in the city.
People gambling in the Tropicana casino could admire a stunning ceiling made of stained glass, which is still there today.
The ornate ceiling includes more than 4,000 square feet of leaded glass and is actually suspended with pneumatic shock absorbers that protect it from vibrations, according to the Travel Channel.
In 1978, the East Coast got its first casino: Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
New Jersey legalised gambling in Atlantic City in 1977 as a response to the success of casinos in Nevada, and Atlantic City soon became a booming tourist destination as the first gambling city on the East Coast.
People turned the casino into a huge dance party to celebrate a new era for gambling on the East Coast.
The casino was also used as a location for films like “The Colour of Money,” “The Pick-up Artist,” and “Atlantic City.” Resorts Casino Hotel also brought famous pop culture personas such as Frank Sinatra, Steve Martin, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Carson, to Atlantic City.
Others tried their luck at the slot machines.
Slot machines looked a little different in 1978.
Atlantic City’s first casino celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018.
Today, electronic slot machines fill the casino floor.
Paris Las Vegas, the Nevada-based hotel and casino resort inspired by the City of Lights, was built in 1999 and features a 50-story replica of the Eiffel Tower.
For visitors who want a break from the casino, the main attraction at Paris Las Vegas is the 50-story-replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Today, the casino in Paris Las Vegas still has European charm, with decorations like street signs, faux-cobblestone pathways, and a painted ceiling that looks like the Parisian sky.
The 85,000-square-foot casino is home to some 1,700 slot machines.
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