The Evolution of the Casino Industry: Past, Present, and Future

Many modern casinos are sprawling complexes with huge gaming floors and resort amenities. They're complimented by online casinos, which feature entertaining websites, mobile compatibility, and many games. How did we get to the point where casinos are either massive resorts or advanced websites? Let's find out by discussing casino history, where gaming is at today, and what to expect from future casinos.

First Casino in Italy & European Expansion

The origins of casinos are somewhat murky, but many historians agree that the first official casino opened in Italy in 1638. The Great Council of Venice wanted to control gaming during the city's annual carnival. This gambling house lasted until 1774, at which point city officials wanted it closed down because too many players were getting addicted. The Venice casino served as an inspiration to other European countries to embrace, or at least tolerate, gaming. Many casinos had spread across the continent during the eighteenth century. France was particularly important because it became the birthplace of roulette. The first roulette game started at a Parisian casino in 1796.

Casinos Make their Way to the US

The earliest US gambling houses were saloons, which relied on a mixture of gaming and alcohol to make money. Saloons and gambling gained mass popularity in Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, and San Francisco. Although saloons aren't technically casinos, they had a similar business model that included gambling, drinks, and entertainment events (e.g., boxing matches). States eventually started banning gambling in the early 1900s, though, as conservatism swept across the US. By the 1950s, there were no saloons left.

The Rise of Las Vegas

While saloon gambling disappeared left and right in the early 1900s, Las Vegas gave American gamblers some hope. Nevada legalized gambling in 1931 to prevent dollars from flowing out of state and into unregulated gambling machines, which were highly popular in neighboring California. Little did lawmakers know that this move would prove a boon for decades to come. With many states outlawing gambling, Nevada eventually became the only gaming option in the US. Of course, its transition from a desert state to a gambling capital was a slow one at first. Las Vegas eventually drew more casino resorts, though, and became the state's gaming crown jewel. By the 1950s and 60s, both Vegas and Reno were highly popular international gambling destinations. Reno isn't as popular as it once was, but Sin City is now the world's casino resort capital.

More Casinos in the US

New Jersey would become the second state to legalize casino gambling, doing so in 1976. However, it confined casinos to Atlantic City when passing the law. Resorts International became the first New Jersey casino after launching in 1976. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 paved the way for federally recognized tribes to open casinos. Under the IGRA, tribes must negotiate with their local state for the right to launch a gaming establishment. Many federally recognized tribes have taken advantage of this law and opened casinos. More states have since approved casino gaming too. The 2000s was an especially active time for states legalizing brick-and-mortar casinos.

The Advent of Online Casinos

InterCasino became the first online casino when it launched in 1994. This was an unassuming event for the gambling world at the time because few players were open to the idea of betting online. They stayed resistant to the concept for several years because they didn't trust remote gaming sites. But by the time the 2000s rolled around, more and more gamblers were depositing at online casinos. They appreciated the convenience of gaming sites and not having to travel to Atlantic City, Vegas, or tribal casinos. Online casinos have grown immensely popular since then due to big bonuses, game innovations, and mobile play.

Where is Casino Gaming at Today?

Land-based gaming is cemented in America due to the fact that 44 states have legalized brick-and-mortar casinos. Several states have even regulated online casinos. Offshore casinos often serve states that don't have regulated online gaming. That said, many of the bases for casinos are covered today. You don't need to look far to find an online or brick-and-mortar betting opportunity. The US is home to over 2,100 land-based casinos-by far the most of any country. Hundreds of offshore online casinos also take American players.

What's the Future of Casinos?

We will likely see more states regulating gaming sites within the next decade. Most jurisdictions were focused on legalizing sports betting over the past several years. Now that this is accomplished in over 30 states, some will eventually turn to online casinos as they seek additional revenue sources. As for the future of casino innovations, virtual reality could become a larger part of the industry. VR casinos and games haven't quite taken off yet, but they could certainly be popular if the VR sets themselves sell better. New slot machine features will keep coming out as well. That said, we should be in for an exciting time in casino history moving forward.