In the beginning was gambling and gamblers saw it was good. So they said, “Let there be a casino,” and there was a casino to house gambling games. But casinos are not only for gambling. Here’s a summary of what casinos were in the beginning and what their uses were for, and what they are today.
Casinos really meant “villas” or small villas in the 17th or 18th century. A small Italian “pueblo” or village comprised of some 10 to 20 families then. So a settlement of a dozen or so families was also sometimes called a casino. It also meant a vacation house or pavilion or an elegant covered court—something like a clubhouse—where entertainment, amusement, and other pleasure activities happened. Some villas were often built inside bigger villas, or what Italians called Palazzo.
Casinos were not always for gambling. At times they functioned as theaters, venues for concerts, meeting places for the elite, restaurants, or even health centers. Some casinos were not used even once for gambling purposes. Take Copenhagen Casino for instance. In the mid 1800s, it used to be a theater and was sometimes used for political meetings. In fact, the 1848 Revolution was finalized and implemented in the casino so that Denmark birthed its first legitimate monarch. Copenhagen Casino continued being used as a theater until 1937.
Then there’s Hanko Casino, one of Hanko’s most famous attraction and marker. This casino in Finland was never used for gambling. In the 1800s it was where the Russian elite citizenry met to relax, socialize, and enjoyed an hour or two of luxurious spa. Today, it’s still not used for gambling but for classy fine dining.
Casinos for gambling have a distinct way of being pronounced in Italian; it is accented at the end, thus being Casino`, a sweeping hurried elocution. Casinos for gambling feature various games of chance from the purely luck-dependent ones (roulette, slotting, baccarat) to those with a bit of skill and timing applications (poker and its variations, 21, and the like). The general rule among casinos is that they have to have a certain winning advantage (though small) over gamblers to stay in business.
They have overhead expenses to take care of. Aside from tax, permits, and other fees and bills to run the business, they have to pay their employees. So the trick is to get whatever little chance left allotted for gamblers in gambling sessions.
Casinos have played different functions in people’s lives. They’ve always been for gambling—gambling on politics, on social life, and on menus.