Why Is It Called a Casino

It has been called an alcove, belvedere, gazebo, kiosk, pavilion, summerhouse, bank, clubhouse, and dive. You can find it in a public building or a room for entertainment, such as gambling. It’s a typically open venue from the evening until early morning, many open 24/7. And there are over 9,330 casinos in the world. But Why Is It Called a Casino?

Italy Is Where The Word Came From

The 1600s, in Italy, is when our search for the answer begins.

In Roll, the Bones: The History of Gambling, author David Schwartz reports, “Originally, it was a gathering place, a clubhouse. But, Casini soon became centers for gossip and gambling.”

An informal class structure of rich and poor in the bustling trade city of Venice, Italy, produced two venues for gambling. First, the upper classes gambled in ridotti.

Yes, Venice, Italy, is the foundation of the modern gambling hall.

Where did the Word Casino Come From
The Ridotto, by Giuseppe de Gobbis, Venice, c. 1760

According to Las Vegas Advisor, “[ridotti] were private places that hosted the aristocracy for eating and drinking, dancing, and participating in their games of chance.”

The Venice aristocracy began to transform the ridotti. Ridotti began to include employ dealers and offer banked games. The “house” also began to take a piece of the action to profit from hosting.

Grazie Venizia Italia (Thank You Venice, Italy)

The Great Council of Venice, in 1638, finally approved the San Moise Palace, known as the Ridotto (singular of ridotti). In Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling, author David Schwartz calls it “the first legal state-sanctioned public gambling house in European history.” Et voila! (there it is!)

Where did the Word Casino Come From
“Roll the Bones” by Dr. David Schwartz

However, William Sharra also points out, “…in modern Italian it means brothel (or a mess). So the modern Italian word for a casino is casino`. The accent makes a subtle but significant difference, especially if you plan to visit Italy shortly!

Rhode Island Had Casinos Before 1900?

Yes. Rhode Island had casinos more than a hundred years before Twin River Casino and Newport Grand Slots (later closed for a new facility in Tiverton, RI). But they were pretty different from today’s gambling halls.

Where did the Word Casino Come From
Newport Casino during the Gilded Age

One of Newport, Rhode Island’s many architectural landmarks is the Newport Casino. In 19th century terminology, a casino was a social and recreational facility, not precisely a place for gambling. However, new York millionaires established Newport, Rhode Island, as a premier summer resort. Consequently, the Newport Casino quickly became Newport’s social center.


The building offered a wide variety of amenities – a restaurant, a ballroom, a theater, and tennis courts. Ultimately, the casino would play an essential role in American tennis history. In 1987, Newport Casino became a National Historic Landmark.

Tennis, anyone? Newport Casino

Nowadays, you can go to the casino without a clubhouse or any physical structure whatsoever. All it takes is to open up your laptop. Legal online casinos are the next significant expansion of the gaming landscape. But, in 20 years, what will the word “casino” describe? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.