A casino is a singular location where gambling games are played. The word casino can be modified with many adjectives that narrow its scope. In this encyclopedia, attention is focused upon government-recognized or legal casi¬nos, those that are authorized by law and that share their revenues with pub¬lic treasuries through commission fees or taxation. Casinos considered here also have permanence. They are places where games are played on a regular basis, as distinguished from places that offer only occasional gambling events, such as Las Vegas Nights. A casino operation is also one in which the house establishment is an active partic¬ipant in the games. It participates as a player (e.g., in house-banked games) or it conducts player-banked games by furnishing house dealers and using house equipment. Again, a casino is more than a mere place where inde¬pendent players can conduct their owngames, as they did, for instance, on Mississippi riverboats in the 19th century.
A person studying gambling casinos must be wary of other uses of the word casino. In a generic sense, the word casino means “a small house” (from the Italian casa, meaning “house,” and ino, meaning “small”) or room in a house that is “used for social amuse¬ment” (according to the 10th edition of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictio¬nary). From other dictionaries, we can find casinos identified as “Italian sum¬mer villas,” “brothels,” and “social clubs.” The word also means “dance¬hall.” The large casino on the Southern California resort island of Catalina is a movie house. Inquiries were made in Santiago, Chile, in search of a regula¬tory authority for gambling “casinos.” They led a researcher in circles from one government office to another. At the end of the journey, the researcher found himself in offices outside a large cafeteria for government employees.

Indeed, he had found the “national casino.”
In order to distinguish gambling casi¬nos from other casinos, the Spanish (of Spain) call their casinos casinos de juegos, meaning “casinos of games.” In Germany, the gambling casinos are called Spiel¬banken (“play banks”). (Perhaps too many had been getting requests from visitors from Italy for certain nongam¬bling services.)
A real casino should have some dis¬tinction from places that merely have a side room for games within a larger establishment devoted to other activities. The Las Vegas Supermarket casino is really a supermarket with machine gam¬bling; in smaller stores with machines, the machines can provide the dominant flow of revenue for the establishment. The gambling area that is a casino is a focal point for social activity wherever it is located.
The first gambling casinos appeared in ancient times, probably across the vast Eurasian land mass. The historical record of Asian gambling halls of the distant past is rather incomplete. It is known, however, that Greeks and Romans of the privileged classes trav¬eled to beach resorts or resorts that were adjacent to natural spas and mineral waters with health-giving powers. Today’s casino resorts at Spa, Bad Aachen, and Trier were also Roman gambling centers. Roman authorities actually taxed the wagering activity of these resorts. During the Middle Ages, gambling flourished at these same places and also at houses for overnight stays along the roads used by commercial travelers and the privileged elite.
In the 1600s, Venice became one of the first sites for a government-authorized casino. In 1626, the government gave permission for the Il Ridotto (the Redoubt) to have games, provided it paid a tax on its winnings. Part of the rationale for granting what was at first a monopoly casino franchise was that the government was having a hard time controlling many private operators. It was hoped that they would lose their patrons to the “legal” house. The Il Ridotto then did what many “high¬roller” houses do now—it protected the privacy of the players. Indeed, the play¬ers all wore carnival masks as they made their wagers. Unfortunately, this practice allowed many cheats to ply their trades without fear of easy dis¬covery. In the early 18th century, the Spa casino in present-day Belgium reopened, as did casinos at Bad Ems, Wiesbaden, Bad Kissingen, and Baden-Baden. Organized play at various houses near the Palais Royal in Paris also flourished. The 19th century saw a great proliferation of casinos across Europe. The most prominent developers of the century were the Blanc brothers, Louis and François. They started games at the Palais Royal and then moved to Bad Homburg, where they managed the house until the Prussian government banned gambling in the 1850s. The Blancs followed opportunity and accepted an invitation to take over a failing facility in Monaco, which they developed into what is even today the world’s most famous casino, the one at Monte Carlo.
The entry on European casinos pro¬vides a look at why European gambling failed to maintain a leadership role in world gambling into the 20th century. The 1900s instead saw the central inter¬est in casino gambling shift to the Western Hemisphere and especially the United States.

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