Casino History Part II: America & the Modern Era

No country in the world has played a more prominent role in promoting casino gambling in the modern world like the USA has. This has as much to do with natural American entrepreneurial spirit as it does the Hollywood movie machine. As a direct result of both of these elements, people all over the world know that fortunes and futures can be made overnight if you visit Atlantic City in the east or Las Vegas in the west. These are the twin cities of American casino gambling and both offer opportunities beyond your wildest dreams. Moreover, both share a similar history of overcoming the odds, a chequered history with organised crime, and a new and modern expansion based on corporate investment.

Impress Your Friends: Here’s a cool fact that you can impress your friends with the next time you play poker, blackjack, or any other card game. The very first set of playing cards that were machine printed in Europe came from the printing press of none other than Johannes Gutenberg. Yip, the same guy that printed the word’s first printed edition of the bible printed playing cards for the gambling industry first! Not too sure how that’s going to go down with your local clergy.

The Seeds of American Casino Gambling

Some may find it surprising, but actual casino gambling took a while to take root in America. The first forms of gambling that existed, particularly in major cities like Chicago, San Francisco, St Louis and New Orleans, took place in saloons or bars. This was where everyone went to unwind, have a few drinks and play a few hands of poker. However, gambling was banned during the early part of the twentieth century, as a new moral movement swept through the country. It wasn’t until 1931, that the state of Nevada legalized gambling, paving the way for America’s first real casinos.

Las Vegas, Nevada

No other city is as famous as Las Vegas when it comes to gambling, having fun. Also known as Sin City, Las Vegas is a place where anything is possible and anything can, and does, happen.

The First Casino in Las Vegas – The Golden Gate Casino

Not many people are aware of this, but the first actual casino to open its doors in Las Vegas was not the Tropicana or The Sands. The first casino in Las Vegas was the Golden Gate Casino, opening in 1906 and still operating today. This was long before legalized gambling, back when the West was still pretty wild.

Fun Fact:The name Las Vegas actually comes from a Spanish phrase meaning “The Meadows”. Apparently the name came about during the 1800’s, when traders moving goods from Mexico to Los Angeles would use that specific area as a watering hole.

Atlantic City, New Jersey – “The World’s Playground”

If Las Vegas was the Wild West, then Atlantic City was the Wild East. Originally established as a health resort by a doctor Jonathan Pitney, the town quickly expanded into a seaside holiday resort on the East Coast.

Boardwalk Empire

In 2010, HBO released a show about Atlantic City called Boardwalk Empire. The show became a hit and was loosely based around a real-life person named Enoch ‘Nucky’ Johnson (renamed Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson in the show). While much of the show is fabricated for dramatic effect, a lot is also based on facts. Atlantic City flouted federal prohibition laws during the 1920’s and 30’s and it became a haven for those that wanted to drink, party and gamble. While Atlantic City did experience a steady decline during the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s, the city bounced back, and is now one of the leading destinations for casino gambling. The city is home to many famous casinos including the Golden Nugget, Tropicana Atlantic City, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and many others.


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Why Our Love for Casinos will Never Die

The story of the modern casino is not only fascinating and entertaining; it also teaches us a lot about human nature. It shows us about the need to share and socialize with other of a like mind, and test your skills and bravado in games where the odds are usually stacked against you. If you have enough ‘chutzpah’ and, if you’re in good with Lady Luck, you could change your life forever. At least that is the hope and dream of most casino gamers around the world.

The idea of changing your fortune in an instant is nothing new; there are countless stories across many cultures of ordinary men and women who changed their fortune (and consequently their future) by taking a risk, seemingly against the odds. We all love watching people win millions in slots or lottery games because, there is always some small part of us that automatically puts ourselves in their shoes. That ‘what if’ fantasy, where fortune could smile on you with equal measure, if you just play your cards right.

In medieval times, alchemists would experiment with all sorts of chemicals in the hope of turning led to gold. We can’t seem to let go of this idea and it’s what motivates many to take a small amount of their money, take their chances on the tables or the slots, and hope to turn their modest amount into a king’s ransom.

Casinos are deeply imbedded in our pop culture and have been for decades. There are hundreds of Hollywood movies that feature casino scenes to a greater or lesser degree. In fact, some movies revolve completely around the casino industry, in both good and bad ways. From mob movies and heist movies, to rom-coms and feel good rags to riches stories, casinos are often the heart that drives the narrative forward.

Today, we live in an incredible age where you don’t even have to live anywhere near a casino in order to experience what it’s all about. Online casinos are the modern version of the old Las Vegas dream, and it can be experienced by anyone, anywhere in the world. As long as you have a fairly decent computer and a reliable internet connection, you have just as much of a shot at millions than anyone that is actually in a Las Vegas casino. Heck, these days you don’t even need to use your computer anymore. Thanks to mind blowing advances in mobile technology, you can play virtually any online casino game directly on our mobile device, anywhere, anytime.

Last Updated: February 19, 2019