Gambling has been taking place since ancient times, with the ancient Romans, Greeks and Chinese among those to partake in games of chance and wagering. Casinos were a later arrival, with the first official and legal gaming house opening in Venice in the 1600s.
Our exhaustively-researched list of the ten oldest working casinos is very Euro-centric, although we do make one trip Stateside to the spiritual home of casinos today:
1. Casino di Venezia – Venice, Italy (1638)
Housed in a stunning Renaissance-era palace on the Grand Canal, the Casino di Venezia is the oldest casino in the world that is still active today. The first casino in the western world was originally known as ‘Il Ridotto di San Moisè’ (‘The Private Room of San Moisè,’) when it opened its doors for the first time in 1638. It was to close in 1774 after campaigning by reformer Giorgio Pisani, who wished to ‘preserve the piety’ of the city.
However, in later years this Venice Casino would reopen in the stunning palace whose construction began in 1481. The Ca’ Vendramin Calergi palace was a home for Italian royalty for generations, and today houses not only a casino but also a museum of the composer Richard Wagner, who was a frequent visitor to the palace. The Venice Casino made this palace its winter home in 1959 after a long absence and players have been visiting this beautiful building ever since.
Today you can try your luck on the roulette, blackjack, punto banco and chemin de fer tables. Fans of slots and video poker will be able to choose from more than 600 of the latest machines.
2. Casino de Spa – Spa, Belgium (1763)
The oldest casino in Belgium, the Casino de Spa was originally built as a thermal bathhouse in the 18th century before it was converted into a casino regarded as one of the ‘prettiest and best maintained in Europe’. Government bans on casino gaming led to its temporary closure from 1872 until the early 20th century. World War I took its toll on the venerable buildings, but the casinos were restored to their former glory in 1918.
Blackjack and roulette tables are popular options here for fans of classic table games, while there are regular poker tournaments at the Casino de Spa. Slot machines made their first appearance here in 2004 and these days you can choose from more than a hundred.
3. Casino Wiesbaden – Wiesbaden, Germany (1771)
The Casino Wiesbaden is reputed to be the oldest casino in Germany, having been granted a public gaming license by the Duke of Nassau-Usingen back in 1771. Many famous personalities have tried their luck at this palace of pleasure, including the writer Dostoyevsky, who is supposed to have been inspired to write ‘The Gambler’ following an unlucky visit to the casino when he lost all of his possessions.
The classic table games of blackjack, roulette and poker dominate the gaming floor at the Wiesbaden casino these days. There are also more than 190 slot machines to choose from, including progressive jackpot slots, and this casino claims to pay out up to €2.5 million in winnings per day.
4. Kurhaus of Baden-Baden – Baden-Baden, Germany (1824)
The Kurhaus was designed by acclaimed German architect Friedrich Weinbrenner in 1824 in a style reminiscent of the great buildings of ancient Greece. When gambling was made illegal in France in the 1830s, the Kurhaus’ popularity took off as French gamblers crossed the border to play here. Like the Wiesbaden, this is another famous German casino which claims to have been the inspiration for Dostoyevsky’s book ‘The Gambler’. As the author was known to frequent dozens of casinos during his life it is difficult to prove for certain which should take the credit!
Both French and American roulette tables are available to play here today, alongside blackjack tables and poker cash games from Sunday to Thursday. More than 140 slot machines make up the offering of gambling options at the Baden-Baden casino.
5. Casino Spielbank Bad Homburg – Bad Homburg, Germany (1841)
Twin brothers Louis and François Blanc opened the Bad Homburg casino in 1841 and it remains one of the most celebrated in Germany almost two centuries later. Spielbank Bad Homburg was a popular gaming venue up until 1872 when gambling was prohibited in Prussia and it was forced to close its doors. Life began again in 1949 when the casino reopened, and it has gone from strength to strength since then.
Pay a visit and you can choose from 8 roulette tables, a mixture of French and American variants of the game. The four blackjack tables here include unique variations like Chance Blanc, Golden Jack and the tempting Free Bet Blackjack game. Poker tournaments and more than 140 slot games round out the gaming offerings here.
6. Casino Interlaken – Bern, Switzerland (1859)
The Interlaken Casino was opened in 1859, only to close again shortly afterwards as gambling was made illegal in the canton. This was the first in a series of stops and starts to the life of this Swiss establishment. Opening again in 1883, changing laws caused it to shut its doors once more in the 1920s. Finally the ban on gambling in Switzerland was lifted in the 1990s, and the Interlaken Casino got its licence in 2002.
Visit the casino today and you will be able to play the slot machines and electronic roulette from noon, with the blackjack, roulette and poker tables open from 8pm to the early hours.
7. Casino de Monte-Carlo – Monte Carlo, Monaco (1863)
Monte Carlo Casino is probably the most famous in the world, and without doubt the epitome of style and glamour. Princess Caroline of Monaco is credited with the idea of opening the casino, as a means of saving the royal family from impending bankruptcy. The casino was modelled on the Bad Homburg, and indeed the owner of that casino, François Blanc, was persuaded to become the founder of the Monte Carlo venture. Over the years the casino more than fulfilled Princess Caroline’s ambitions, becoming the primary source of income for the economy of Monaco.
A temporary casino was opened in 1856 in La Comandine, and work on the Monte Carlo Casino as we know it today began on 13 May 1858 on its current site of Les Spelugues (‘The Caves’) under the supervision of French architect Gobineau de la Bretonnerie. The Monte Carlo Casino was finally inaugurated in the spring of 1863.
These days the Monte Carlo Casino also offers one of the biggest range of gaming options on our list. There are tables on which to play Blackjack, different varieties of roulette, poker and craps, along with almost 600 slot machines.
8. Sanremo Casino – Sanremo, Italy (1905)
The Sanremo Casino first opened its doors on the 14th of January 1905, and those doors remain open to this day. The Art Nouveau building was designed by architect Eugène Ferret, who would go on to be the first manager of the casino. Patrons will often touch the foot of the ‘La Cica’ – a statue of a naked woman at the casino entrance – for luck, a tradition that extends back to the opening of the casino.
Besides the 470 slot machines located in various rooms around the casino, visitors will find classic table games which include roulette, blackjack, punto banco and chemin de fer. There is also a room dedicated exclusively to Texas Hold’Em poker for fans of the world’s most popular card game.
9. Golden Gate Casino – Las Vegas, U.S.A. (1906)
Appropriately enough, the oldest casino in the United States is found in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Golden Gate Casino having opened its doors for the first time in 1906. The following year the hotel also became the first place in the city to have a telephone installed. Gambling was outlawed in Nevada between 1910 and 1931 but since then it hasn’t looked back, this venerable establishment becoming a fixture on Fremont Street.
Craps is probably the iconic Vegas casino game, and you can roll those bones at the Golden Gate, while blackjack and roulette tables are also available. Players can also try their luck at newer table games like 3-Card Poker and Let It Ride, while the ubiquitous Vegas slots are always available.
10. Trouville-sur-Mer Casino – Normandy, France (1912)
The Trouville-sur-Mer Casino was inaugurated on the 29th of June, 1912, just a few days ahead of another Normandy casino, the Deauville. Both casinos are active to this day and both are part of the Lucien Barrière Group which today owns 34 casinos in France, Switzerland, Egypt and the Ivory Coast. The Trouville-sur-Mer casino is decorated in a Louisiana-inspired colonial style, notable for two giant paddle wheels alongside the building. In the 1920s and ‘30s the Trouville casino lost a number of customers to its sister gaming house in Deauville, both today both are thriving establishments.
400,000 visitors per year enjoy playing a variety of casino games at the Trouville-sur-Mer Casino, including blackjack, roulette and more than 200 slot machines.
They may be old, but none of these distinguished establishments make our list of the world’s biggest casinos. Find out which ones do!