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Betting in Venice

Published on: 08/08/2016

Throughout history, Venice has played a significant role in the subject of gambling. During the mid-17th century, Venice became home to the first ever legitimate casino. In the years following Italy’s Renaissance period, gambling infiltrated the rest of Europe, led by games such as Biribisso, Basset and Faro. These betting activities were the predecessors of the modern games we know so well today such as Lotto, Roulette and Keno.

Prior to the casino scene, the Rialto District in Venice favoured “mercantile gambling”. Shops would conduct raffles for products varying from household hardwears to materials and silks. The city governors became aware that the games of chance would be an excellent means of raising funds. People began to hold their own draws for charity and all sorts of things were raffled from real estate to commissions and council jobs. Rules were created which led to lotteries being managed by the government, thus Venice became the first place where gambling regulations came into force.

Unauthorised gambling was eventually prohibited and the locals overcame this by partaking in secret gaming activities which became known as “ridotto” which was favoured by the commoners as well as the wealthy people. In 1638, to fit in with the yearly Spring Carnival, the Great Council of Venice responded by converting an area of the San Moise Palace into a space for legal gambling activities. Effectively, creating the world’s first ever regulated government run casino.

The Ridotto gaming space was housed hosted within a building which comprised of four floors, all embellished with large candle-light chandeliers. Everybody except for the wealthiest had to adorn Carnival masks. Drinks were on sale and for those who were only watching the games, an entry fee was charged. The casino remained open even after the spring carnival due to the copious amounts of money it was raising. The Ridotto continued operating for over a hundred years, finally closing in 1774. Gambling later became illegal in the city.

Eventually, underground gambling once more resumed within the back rooms of closed pubs and modest casa’s (Latin for cottages). For many centuries, unlawful casinos flourished throughout Italy, despite being completely illegal and regardless of the venue - be it in public venues or private clubs. However, a state-licensed monopoly still operates three casinos in Venice to this day. The Lido de Venezia is one such venue. It offers 24 games machines and hosts live gaming events in the months of May and September. The tournaments include Backgammon, Gin Rummy and International Bridge. The minimum age to partake is 18 years of age and gentlemen must be smartly dressed with a tie and jacket. An admission fee and a passport or valid ID is required to enter. There are two restaurants available which can be found within the Venice Hotel Excelsior.

The other two casinos are larger and provide more gambling options. Both are under the same licence and company name which is Casino de Venezia. The venue known as Ca’Noghera opened its doors to the gaming public for the first time in 1999. It is situated in close proximity to the Marco Polo Airport and is open every day. There are 11 popular games which include Texas Hold’em, French Roulette and Blackjack. The property has enough floor space to house 600 gaming machines. Also on site is the Theatre Arena Night Club where catwalks, shows and concerts are hosted.

Casino di Venezia’s last venue goes by the name of Ca’ Vendramin Calergi and is situated on the edge of the city’s Grand Canal. The full-service casino is open for play every day of the week and facilitates 500 games machines and seven gaming tables offering an array of gambling activities such as Blackjack, Fair Roulette, French Roulette, Midi Trente et Quarante, Punto Banco, Chemin de Fer and Caribbean Poker amongst many others.

Adding to the city’s entertainment is a floating cruise ship casino called Costa Fascinosa which is operated by Costa Cruises. The ship itself accommodates 1,508 cabins, multiple bars and restaurants, theatres, discos plus four swimming pools.