A Gamble through Time: People all over the world have enjoyed gambling for a very long time. In fact, the first proof of such an activity dates back to ancient China, to more than 2000 year B.C. Casinos, as we know them today, are nothing more than evolution of an ancient tradition of betting on games.
Yet, the first official state-owned casino is not that old. For many centuries gambling was conducted at private homes, basements or taverns, but in 1638 the first venue, designed for this particular purpose, opened its doors in Venice. This establishment, called “Riotto”, offered two types of games only: birbi – a kind of lottery game, and basetta – something between poker and Black Jack. Theoretically, everyone could enter it, although the high stakes and the strict dress code meant that it was reserved for the aristocracy only. Unfortunately, as a consequence of the alternating political views of the local authorities, “Riotto” had to close in 1744.
Nevertheless, it was in the 18th century when a significant boom in gambling houses took place across Europe, with the rise of magnificent casinos in cities like Monte Carlo, followed by Baden Baden in Germany and Spa in Belgium.
Surely, among this, the most important casino is the one in Monte Carlo. It was built around the middle of the 19th century following princessin Caroline’s convinction that only such a venture could save the Grimaldi falily, who were the rulers of the little state of Monaco, from an unavoidable bankruptcy. Time proved she was right, and in only a few decades and thanks to her vision Monaco turned from a small, unknown city into one of the most iconic and luxurious places on Earth.
Meanwhile, gambling started gaining popularity in the USA, too. It was not centered in Las Vegas, as many might think, but in San Francisco. With the Gold Rush in full swing, every saloon organized gambling tables and they had no difficulty in attracting the attention of the prosperous. As we have seen in movies, whose plot is set in those times, the king of the games was undoubtedly poker. Brought to the delta of the Mississippi River by the French colonists, the game quickly became popular across the whole country. As for other countries, it started gaining fame from 1872 on, when Colonel Jacob Schenck wrote the poker rules and sent them over to England.
Although in 19th century it was considered mainly a game for outlaws, over the years, poker has become a mainstream game, played by people of any status, nationality and culture. The first World Series of Poker (WSOF) took place in Las Vegas in 1970, and only three years later, it was shown on the TV screens. At the end of last century, more precisely in 1998, Planet Poker, the first online poker room, was launched, making it possible for people from all over the world to play online. From that moment on, its popularity has been continuously increasing. In 2013, a new world record for the highest number of participants in an online tournament was set – 225 000 people.
Needless to say, the place where today poker, along with all other gambling games, is played the most is Las Vegas – a city which over a century has been attracting millions of visitors per day to the desert of Nevada, making trillions of dollars over one night only. The entertainment capital of the world, as the city is referred to, was founded in 1905. In those years gambling started among railroad workers, but it was only in 1931 that this activity was legalized. From this moment on, money made by criminal organizations from through trafficking and racketeering were invested in building casinos.
Then, in the 1950s gray money combined with funds coming from more respectable investors drew legendary performers such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley. Las Vegas became and still is the place hosing important events, shows, annual award ceremonies, attended by thousands.
The number of visitors kept increasing and at the beginning of the 1990s. “The Strip”, a nickname for the boulevard where the major casinos are located, was entirely transformed: old buildings were taken down to make room for massive complexes, for the building of which inspiration was taken from the architecture of ancient Rome, Egypt, Paris, Venice and other glamorous cities.
While Las Vegas continues to thrive, it is rather obvious that the future of casinos is moving to online platforms, too. Online casinos are divided into two categories based on the software they use: web-based and download-only casinos. The main difference between the two versions is that, in order to play online, one is required to download a certain software. Nowadays, the most popular version is the web-based casino. It is quite understandable why concerns are common among players – installing some unknown software might lead to spreading of malwares. The results of the played games are determined by using a pseudorandom number generator (PRNG) software. This software ensures that every outcome is totally random and unpredictable.
Recently, a rise in live-dealer casinos can be observed, where games depend on real time results. This is possible as the games are streamed in real-time from a studio which is recreated to mimick a regular casino. These games are a lot more expensive for websites to host than virtual games, as they involve a heavier investment in technology and staff. Nevertheless, internet companies are more than happy to run this kind of shows. After all, the demand for gambling is quite high these days, more than it had always been.
Does this mean that people will progressively replace traditional casinos with their virtual versions? Nobody can predict the future, and yet, there are so many aspects of gambling in a real casino that an online game lacks. First of all, for some type of games like poker it is crucial to play live, because that is the only way to keep a real contact with the opponents.
The more important part is the real fun, the shared entertainment, the excitement of dressing up and soaking in the opulent atmosphere of the casino. It does not matter if one goes with a partner, with friends or alone.
Living to the fullest for one night in a stunningly beautiful building, showing off expertise and skills, or just laughing at bad luck – this is what one cannot experience when playing alone in front of a computer screen. Besides, there is always a good chance to win some money.
-Text by Daniel De Luise
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