A Look at the World’s Very First Casino

The word “casino” is derived from the Italian word “casa”, meaning house, and was likely used originally to describe an entertainment villa or social club. It comes as no surprise, then, that our dear friends who brought us pizza and pasta also happened to have founded the world’s very first casino… in the 17th century! Since its early days in Europe, the concept remained relatively unchanged until much more recently, when the arrival of online casinos such as Lucky VIP allowed us to enjoy all the fun without getting dressed up and going out.

More than 380 years after the first-ever casino, Ca' Vendramin Calergi, opened its doors in Venice, these entertainment hubs are more popular than ever – it’s just that a lot of them are now online. Let’s pay tribute to the genius that brought poker and slots into our lives, and take a look at where it all started, what games were played, and who the fine folk playing them were – it’s certainly a world away from playing slots online on your nearest digital device!

The very first casino

Ca’ Vendramin Calergi was established in 1638, and was located on the Grand Canal in Venice. Originally linked to a theatre called Teatro Saint Moses, Il Ridotto was a gambling wing where theatregoers could play a few games during intermissions. The room became so popular that it was soon transformed into a dedicated casino. This sparked the casino craze in Venice, and by 1744 there were more than 120 in the City of Canals alone!

The Renaissance palace that housed Ca’ Vendramin Calergi was built in the 15th century by Mauro Codussi, an Italian architect known for designing some of the city’s most beautiful churches. Nobleman Andrea Loredan, who was an art collector, commissioned the project. He filled the walls and ceilings with frescoes and paintings by Italian masters including Mattia Bortoloni, Palma il Giovane, and Giovanni Battista Crosato.

The casino was closed in 1774 and went on to serve as the home to Italian royalty. It later became a holiday home for Richard Wagner, a German composer, between 1858 and 1883. In 1946, the city of Venice bought the building, renovated it (preserving many of the original artworks), and reopened it as an official casino, named Casino di Venezia, in 1959.

Guests who visit Casino di Venezia today are escorted by ferry to the French-designed front doors – that’s right: it’s still a real-life casino! Inside the property, visitors can enjoy the restaurant, aptly named The Wagner, a private garden overlooking the Grand Canal, the Wagner Museum, which documents the creative life of the aforementioned composer – plus, of course, hundreds of casino games from blackjack to roulette, all hosted by dealers dressed in tuxedos, alongside the 600 slot machines!

With its classic Rococo design, felt ropes as handrails, crystal chandeliers and opulent ambience, Casino di Venezia remains a cultural hotspot, and is often used for Hollywood movie sets and Venice Film Festival events.

Who originally played there?

While Il Ridotto, which later became Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, was open to all guests, its high stakes and strict dress codes meant only noble people were able to play casino games and enjoy the services on offer. Women wore Venetian masks, while men were required to wear three-cornered hats and head coverings that only revealed a part of their face. In later years, famous 18th-century Italian author Giacomo Casanova could be seen in regular attendance.

Knowing this, we consider ourselves mighty lucky to be able to enjoy the joys of live casinos in the 21st century from the comfort of our homes!

What games were played?