The precise origin of gambling is unknown. It is generally believed that gambling in some form or another has been seen in almost every society in history. From the Ancient Greeks and Romans to Napoleon’s France and Elizabethan England, much of history is filled with stories of entertainment based on games of chance. The first known European gambling house, not called a casino although meeting the modern definition, was the Ridotto, established in Venice, Italy in 1638 by the Great Council of Venice to provide controlled gambling during the carnival season. It was closed in 1770 as the city government felt it was impoverishing the local gentry.
In American history, early gambling establishments were known as saloons. The creation and importance of saloons was greatly influenced by four major cities: New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco. It was in the saloons that travelers could find people to talk to, drink with, and often gamble with. During the early 20th century in America, gambling became outlawed and banned by state legislation and social reformers of the time. However, in 1931, gambling was legalized throughout the state of Nevada. America’s first legalized casinos were set up in those places. In 1978 New Jersey allowed gambling in Atlantic City, now America’s second largest gambling city.