Las Vegas is, without a doubt, the first thing you think of when you hear of a casino. It’s a city of glitter and glamour, lights and music, with an incredible abundance of entertainment options, most of them built around the city’s vibrant gambling industry. It’s a city with amazing resorts that offer far more than just slot machines and blackjack tables. Sin City surely has its share of attractive features but today I’m not going to discuss them. Instead, I plan to take you on a trip closer to the cradle of the whole casino industry, to see some casinos that are worth visiting even if you’re not into gambling and a vivid nightlife.
Gambling in Europe
Although the whole gambling thing as we know it originated in Europe, it never grew into such a huge industry than in the US. Perhaps it’s the Europeans’ more liberal approach to the mater that is at this phenomenon’s base. Most Europeans are free to gamble online, for example – they can head over to Allslots online casino to play a few hands of blackjack or spin a few times on a slot machine. The All Slots has a game collection worthy of Vegas, but it’s much more accessible than Sin City: you can literally take the All Slots with you in your pocket and play anywhere, any time. With all slots at your disposal at all times, land-based gambling is a far less massive industry in Europe than it is in the US.
There are quite a few famous casinos in Europe, too, but most locals and tourists have reasons other than gambling to visit them – as you’ll see below.
Architecture and arts
One of the oldest casino buildings in Europe, which happens to be one of the most beautiful at the same time, is the winter home of the Venice Casino in Italy: Ca’ Vendramin Calergi. A palazzo finished in 1509, Ca’ Vendramin Calergi was built in a spacious Renaissance style, with an exceptional balance and beauty to its facade facing the Grand Canal, allowing direct access to the city’s famous gondolas.
The palazzo changed hands several times, and was expanded during its 500 years of history – it was inhabited by bankers, nobles, crowned heads and others. Perhaps the most famous inhabitant of the palace was composer Richard Wagner, who even died in the building during one of his visits. Ultimately, the Ca’ Vendramin Calergi was purchased by the City Council of Venice in 1946, and became the winter home of the Casinò di Venezia in 1959.
Photo Jacqueline Poggi CCL
Treatment and culture
Germany’s thermal springs are world famous even today, but their age of glory was the 19th century. One of the most famous spas in the country was Bad Homburg, which was not only known for its thermal baths, but also as an Imperial residence. The town’s first spa building and casino was built by Francois and Louis Blanc in 1842, known for creating the single zero (European) roulette wheel. The town was an attractive destination for the European nobility, allowing them to combine thermal water treatments and entertainment – namely gambling.
Spielbank Bad Homburg is still active today, with gaming, dining, and entertainment offered to visitors of the spa town.
Gambling at its best
Perhaps the most famous casino in Europe is overlooking the principality of Monaco: the Casino de Monte-Carlo. Built in the late 19th century, the Monte Carlo casino was expanded and modified several times, until reaching its current look and feel. Aside from its gambling facilities, the building also houses the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo. It is visited by tourists and gamblers alike – not locals, though, as they are forbidden from using the facility’s gambling services.
The Monte Carlo Casino building has served as an inspiration for Ian Fleming’s depiction of the “Royale-Les-Eaux” casino in Casino Royale, albeit it wasn’t used as a backdrop in the 2006 movie adaptation of the novel. It was, in turn, featured in Ocean’s Twelve, the 2004 sequel of the casino heist flick Ocean’s Eleven.