When you think of casinos, Las Vegas is probably the first thing that comes to mind. However, casinos were actually around way before the gambling capital came to be. First opening in 1638, the Casino di Venezia holds the spot for the world’s oldest casino. It’s still in use today as a casino and also serves as a tourist attraction for people across the globe.
The building is renowned for its embellished pillars and intricately carved surfaces, decorating the rooms dedicated to dining, table games, and slot machines. The casino is located to the north of the Lido, an island in north-eastern Italy, and holds several international events and festivals throughout the year. Some of the events it’s most famous for are the Venice Film Festival and the Venice Carnival.
Casino di Venezia History
The world’s oldest casino first opened in 1638 and was originally a theatre called the Theatre Saint Moses. Back then, the establishment had a wing for gambling that spectators could use during the intermissions of plays. The building was designed by Italian architect Mauro Codussi, who also designed some of the country’s most exquisite churches. It was commissioned by Andrea Loredan, an Italian nobleman and art collector who had paintings on his walls and ceilings by artists such as Palma il Giovane, Mattia Bortoloni, and Gian Battista Crosato.
However, it wasn’t long before gambling became the main focus and Europe’s oldest casino was renamed the Ridotto di San Moise. Ridotto means restricted or reduced in Italian. To start with, the establishment functioned as a privately-owned gambling venue and primarily served aristocrats and upper-class citizens. Theoretically, the casino was open to the public. But, the elegant dress code and high stakes made it most accessible to higher class gamblers. Only players wearing masks and three-cornered hats were allowed to gamble, which meant the casino was inaccessible to those who couldn’t afford such fancy attire. Some of the noble visitors back then were Lorenzo Da Ponte, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Giacomo Casanova.
Illegal Gambling before the Casino di Venezia
Interestingly, gambling was illegal before the Casino di Venezia, although there was little the authorities could do to stop it. Therefore, it came as no surprise when gambling was finally legalised. Even so, the good times didn’t last too long as in 1774 the Gran Council decided to address the elite’s gambling problem and close the casino.
After closing the casino, the building briefly served as a home to Italian royalty and became a getaway for composer Richard Wager, until he died in 1883. In 1946, the city of Venice bought the building and reopened it as an official casino in 1959. Today, players from all over the world flock to the oldest casino to enjoy the luxury table games, slots machines, and gambling tournaments.
Current offerings at Europe’s Oldest Casino
Today, the Casino di Venezia still offers a range of dining and gambling opportunities. You can find both American and French games, ranging from American-inspired Blackjack and Texas Hold’em to French classics like chemin de fer and Roulette. It’s not just traditional games that are on offer here, though. You’ll also find a wide range of electronic table games and more than 600 slot machines.
From time to time, this casino hosts gambling tournaments for various games. In fact, the World Poker Tour Venice Carnival Tournament was held at the Casino di Venezia, hos ted by Gioco Digitale. Gioco Digitale was the first online casino in Italy, so it’s quite fitting that they hosted the tournament as the world’s first casino. In addition to big tournaments, the oldest casino hosts various proprietary tournaments throughout the month. The exact games vary from day to day, so it’s worth checking what’s on before visiting the casino if you’re interested in getting involved.
If you feel peckish when visiting the oldest casino, there are plenty of dining options for you to indulge in. A couple of favourites are the Richard Wagner-inspired restaurant and the pizzeria. If you don’t fancy a full meal, stop by the charcuterie bar for a drink and a snack instead.
For those wondering who the Casino di Venezia owners are, the company CMV S.p. A controls the share capital of the oldest casino. The share capital of CMV S.p.A is wholly controlled by the Municipality of Venice.
Europe’s oldest casino still has a pretty strict dress code. Ladies are allowed to wear casual clothes, but men should dress a little smarter. Casual clothes are not prohibited, but they must be proper, and beachwear is not allowed. This means that tank tops, short trousers, sandals, and flip flops are all out of the question, even in the hot weather. Men wearing leisurewear are permitted to use the slot machines until half-past eight, wearing smart shorts and a t-shirt or polo top.
If you’re hoping to visit the VIP area, you’ll have to step up your game. VIP visitors are encouraged to dress properly, and it’s advised to wear a jacket after half-past eight. Overcoats, suitcases, luggage, hats, and umbrellas must be given to the coat check before entering the casino.
Casino di Venezia Online
If you’re unable to venture to Italy, don’t panic! You can still experience the oldest casino with Casino di Venezia online. There, you can enjoy a wide range of online casino games including classic slots, video slots, and digital table games. If you prefer, you can even test your luck with a game of bingo, poker, or lottery.
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