While taking a ride on a gondola at the Grand Canal in Venice, you will come across several impressive structures of varying origins – from the Fondaco houses of the 13th century to the ones that speak of Byzantine influence, from the Venetian Gothic to the Neoclassical, and from the Venetian Baroque to the Renaissance. As you glide by, preferably humming along to a barcarola from the gondolier, you will probably find it difficult to find just one object of admiration. However, one structure may demand your attention a bit more than others – “a sculpted cloud resting on water” – the grand Renaissance structure, La ‘Vendramin Calergi. This is how you would be introduced to it, but to the gondolier himself, it is the ol’ doge, home of the former Doge of Venice, Leonardo Loredan. This historic shapeshifter has held many distinctions through the centuries, the most prominent of which is that it is home to the world’s first casino.
Origins of the Casino Di Venezia
While gambling may have existed in various forms since the beginning of civilization, casinos as we know them today did not exist until the seventeenth century. The Casino Di Venezia was established in 1638 and has had several branches since. It is only appropriate that the casino should have been born in Venice and at the time that it did. It was in the middle of the Thirty Year War, one of the largest and most destructive conflicts in the history of Europe. Venice remained neutral during the war, which accorded it a period of relative financial stability. At the same time, Spain’s involvement in the war was financed by the taxes that it levied on its Italian dominions, which heavily drained their commerce. This became the ideal climate for organized gambling to prosper. While much of this history is conjectural, proof of its veracity is available in the etymology of the word casino: casa + cina in Italian means little house. It was in the little houses that gambling originated, only to spread to palaces and modern day luxury hotels in due course of time.
Casino Di Venezia in the La ‘ Vendramin Calergi
The Casino Di Venezia launched itself in the iconic palace in 1959, where it continues to operate from till date. By this time, the little houses had given way to decadent backdrops for the affluent to indulge in the thrill of gambling. It also operated out of two other branches, the Lido and the Ca ‘Noghera. However, neither of the other branches enjoyed the kind of distinction that La ‘Vendramin Calergi does, owing to its rich historical backdrop. Can you imagine the thrill of gambling under the same roof that boasts frescoes by Mattia Bortoloni and where Richard Wagner breathed his last? The current Casino Di Valenzia attracts not just people interested in gambling from across the world, but also art lovers and classical music enthusiasts who wish to visit the Wagner Museum.
The Casino Di Venezia Today
Despite its medieval origins, you can be assured of finding all the joys of a modern casino at the Casino Di Venezia. In the rooms dedicated to French games as well as on the American gambling tables, you will find every kind of game that you may fancy, from Baccarat, Black Jack and Roulette, to Texas Hold ’em Poker and Caribbean Stud Poker. The casino all has over 600 slot machines for those who prefer a more informal form of gambling. The total jackpots for grabs at the Casino di Venezia’s two existing venues is a whopping €3,045,229.14, as of September 1, 2015.
However, all is not as hunky dory as it seems from the outside. The current economic situation in Europe has sent the casino directors looking for private investors, but to no avail. In 2013, the taxes charged by the local commune were slashed, so that the Casino Di Venezia closed its 2012 balance sheet at a total revenue of €123 million. This was done in an attempt to attract private investors. In 2014, the city council of Venice which has been running the casino since 1946, issued a tender offering a 30 year deal to a private investor for €500 million. However, they have had no bids at that price. An article in May 2014 had stated that the Slovenian Gambling Firm, Casino Hilt, may have been interested, but nothing has been known to materialize yet. It can only be hoped that the casino that holds within its walls the very history of gambling, will not be allowed to shut down without a better fight.