Casinos Under the Question Mark: An Encyclopedia of Gambling

“Answers exist only to questions.” You didn't land on this casino encyclopedia page out of the blue. You must have been searching for a way inside the gambling world. And what better introduction than through knowledge? It will be your calling card.

Below are questions related to casinos that people have asked incessantly over time. How does gambling affect the economy? What have the paddle riverboats to do with gambling? And how do you overcome a slot machine addiction?

Our answers didn’t come at the toss of a dice, but from on-ground experience- those long nights gambled away at the green table- and a search through the archives of the casino world.

What Do You Want to Know About Casinos?

Where does gambling come from?

Gambling is making headlines today like never before. The intensely-debated topic has provided fertile creative material for Martin Scorsese classics, 90s' Hollywood flicks, the subtle ironic darts in The Simpsons, religious arguments, modern arts, and diplomatic disputes.

It wasn't always that gambling spread like a grey area, subject to a tug of war between sanctimonious critics and addicted button slappers (just walk inside a room of slot machines to see our point).

At the dawn of gambling, a toss of dice carried the sacred seal of approval from all of the earth's celestial lawmakers, from the Christian One-god to the Ancient Greek deities to the Chinese mythological beings.

  • Before the Aztec civilization, cavemen of the New World would play a version of dice some 40,000 years ago, as proven by archeological explorations.
  • In 2300 B.C., the Chinese played a precursor to Mahjong. Keno was later used to finance the first foundations of the Great Wall and the military incursions that transformed China into a power to fear and behold.
  • Other grand civilizations spanning the vast latitudes of Greece, Egypt, India, and Japan never contested the legal status of gambling. Just check the impressive paraphernalia unearthed from their grounds.
  • The Roman empire was a proud source of gambling dens with Caligula perhaps its most infamous high roller. As we will later see, the Mediterranean people opened the doors to the first casinos.

So, to those who insist on digging up an answer, the million-dollar question is “When did gambling start?”. And history will reply in its favorite cryptic manner: gambling has been here for as long as we can remember.

Who invented the Casino?

Casinos didn't exist in government-licensed form until the 17th century. When the Venetian Ridotto first opened its doors in 1638, it ushered in a whole new era into the history of brick-and-mortar gambling venues.

At the time, by offering a proper establishment to the gamblers who invaded Venice during carnival season, the Great Council of Venice was cleverly controlling an otherwise unregulated and Church-condemned activity.

The term “casino” in itself entered the universal vernacular through Italian influence. Casinos, or houses, were small rural mansions and country-house social clubs. In the 19th century, casinos were erected as additional wings on the grounds of larger villas and Italian palaces.

Which state legalized gambling first?

Before the Prohibition would reveal itself as a bankrupt concept, Nevada was already underway to open the Pandora box that is legalized gambling in the US today.

It was 1931. The state of Nevada measured itself in the red sands of the Canyon and the desert wasteland that was crippling its existence.

While the entire continent was experiencing a financial drought in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, Nevada was fighting for survival. And this came under the name Las Vegas.

As gambling laws, post-WWII were becoming more restrictive by the day, gangsters and crime kings such as Bugsy Siegel adopted the newborn city as the headquarters of their illegal empire.

After all, Las Vegas had gambling in its veins. The 60s brought investors who kept on the right side of the law, although a slip here and there couldn't be helped in Sin City.

Other cities were inspired by the notorious Strip. Atlantic City legalized gambling in 1978, and the rest followed on the golden crumbs.

Which states made gambling legal recently?

American gambling law submits to the country's constitutional pride and glory: individual freedom. In other words, the US government proved to be more liberal towards gambling than others- Russia’s, for example.

However, the confusing legal web of nuances and subtleties makes it hard to come up with one answer to clarify the question above. First of all, it all depends on the form of gambling. Here are some facts:

  • Ever since the Indian Regulatory Act was introduced, Native American casinos functioned under more lenient rules than state gambling laws. Nowadays, tribal gambling venues have spread to more than half the continental map.
  • The only states that do not offer any kind or offshoot of gambling are a minority. Hawaii and Utah did not jump the casino bandwagon and to this day, they still did not legalize land based gambling or regulate online casinos. That means no horse racing, lotteries, bingo or sports betting.
  • Social gambling- such as bingo, charitable lotteries or private gaming- is legal and Church-approved even in the state of Texas.
  • State-run lotteries are legal in 44 US states.

Is gambling legal in Texas?

The state that lent its name to the most famous poker game of all times- Texas Hold'em, of course- shows no signs of wishing to adopt a softer stance towards gambling. Texas threw down its gauntlet long ago.

The state’s gambling laws remain as strict as ever. No Texan ranches will undergo a makeover and transform into alluring casinos any time soon.

On the other hand, the occasional gamble on horse and dog racing is allowed.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. How do casino cities advertise themselves?

Once upon a time- in distant 2003- the state of Nevada thought it was just about time to whitewash Sin City’s reputation. All the wicked rumours were seriously hurting the gambling revenue.

In what became the biggest rebranding campaign in the history of the city, the tourism authority employed the creative brains from ad agency R&R Partners to revigorate the urban oasis in the eyes of the public.

Thus, the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” campaign was born. Considering the Puritan morals of most Americans, the slogan was a gamble. But, in this case, humor and self-irony prevailed.

And, 14 years later, the city that embraces sinners with the tolerance of a saint lives on.

How does gambling help the economy?

US states queue up for a piece of the casino revenue pie every year, but Las Vegas constantly dwarfs their efforts. In 2016, the state of Nevada scored the biggest numbers of the year- $11.1 billion.

Although a decline from previous years, Nevada still pulled more financial weight than its Asian counterpart, Macau which has been on a losing streak for the last 25 consecutive months.

Are gambling losses deductible or casino winnings taxed?

According to the much-needed system of checks and balances (the next best thing to the ideal Buddhist equilibrium), the IRS will indeed deduct your losses if you're honest about it and declare your wins.

A number of gambling losses can never exceed the winnings your report. It's a sensible proposition. Otherwise, the government would act as your personal moneylender or benevolent sponsor if it didn't

How did online gambling start?

The tiny Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda took it upon itself to sign the first online gambling licenses.

If we couldn't speak for the first steps of gambling with any certainty, at least the origins of digitalized casinos remain recorded in the most recent Internet archives.

Which casino games have the best odds?

If by miracle, you expected the answer to be the pokies, that's the farthest from reality you can get. Slot machines spin their wins and losses around a random number generator that is their electronic brain. You can't whisper or shake the one-armed bandits into handing you the jackpot. After all, these are the ruthless terminators of the casino.

The casino tables, on the other hand, is where you can fiddle with the odds. The house edge seems to loosen its grip on the following games:

  • Blackjack- Over the long run, the house edge at a basic game of blackjack amounts to 0.5% or 1%, depending on the casino.
  • Craps- The second-best odds go to craps, a 50/50 chance at winning.
  • Baccarat- Aside from its appealing association with James Bond, Baccarat sports the same odds as craps, more or less, and plays eerily similar to Blackjack.
  • Roulette- American roulette is less generous in serving you a win than European ones. The catch? The extra green double 00s on the wheel narrow your odds to less than 50/50.

What gambling casinos are in Shreveport?

Why Shreveport, you ask? Why not Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or even New Jersey? The Louisiana town can't measure up to most American in terms of sheer size, economical muscle or historical significance but Shreveport still holds one ace up its river sleeve: its gambling heritage.

Along the Red River shores, paddle steamers would accommodate hundreds of 19th-century avid gamblers, from card sharks to poker Mavericks, in win-or-lose, be-or-be-killed gory five card poker tournaments.

Casino riverboats still float majestically in Shreveport and Bossier City, making up for top TripAdvisor attractions and a presently safer way for gamblers to blow off some steam.

What's gambling addiction?

Problem gamblers get high even when they slip on a losing streak, studies show. Despite popular belief, gambling addiction is real enough to solicit the development of AA-modelled organizations (such as Gamblers Anonymous) and spark fiery legislative changes forcing casinos to not abuse their pathological gamblers.

How does gambling affect the brain? For an X-ray analysis into gambling addiction, read about those inglorious bastards of the casino on

What does the Bible say about gambling?

Gambling has scaled the heights of notorious taboo mainly because of Christian stigma. And yet, tossing the dice isn't only depicted in the Bible in a positive light, but the activity goes back to the beginning of the world as we know it- or, at least, as the apostles did.

God used dice to decide upon the design of its creation, whereas Joshua cast lots to divide the land the Israel.

But that does not mean that the Bible does not condemn some of the gambling's closest associates- love for money, cheating strategies, greed and casino addiction. For more on the ethics of gambling, read our post Is Gambling a Sin? The Ten Commandments of Betting, Casino-Approved.

The first step, completed. Once you’ve run the casino under the question mark, you can step inside the beast with confidence. Once you understand your odds and the limits you should impose on yourself, you’re already holding an ace up your sleeve. And once you know your adversary, you can challenge him into becoming your friend.

Other articles