Whether we’ve enjoyed a trip to a physical casino or a few slot spins in the online realm, we’re all here because we love the experience. Casino games have been a part of British life for centuries and in the modern day, it’s easier than ever before to spin the reels or play a few hands of poker.
But how much do we actually know about casino origins and their development? Here are some fun facts behind one of our favourite pastimes.
1. Casinos Originated in Italy
There are stunning casinos all over the world and some notable locations such as Macao, London and, of course, Las Vegas. All would lay claim to offering the best experience but who was first?
In fact, that honour goes to Italy where the term ‘casino’ originates. It derives from the root word ‘casa’ meaning house and that term developed to cover a number of establishments such as summerhouses and social clubs. We also know that organised gambling can be dated back to Venice in 1638. While other countries may have taken the baton with great enthusiasm, we clearly owe a huge debt to those early Italians.
2. British Casinos Boomed in London
This may not be the most surprising fact on this list but it’s interesting to note the evolution of London casinos. Having taken over the mantle from Bath as the UK’s gaming epicentre, dedicated gaming houses began to emerge from a wide range of sources.
For example, the world famous White’s was once a chocolate house. Other locations developed from gentlemen's clubs and in time, a booming casino scene was born in the English capital.
3. The Biggest Slot Machine win came in at $39.7 Million
Casino jackpots are often spoken about in terms of life changing sums but the biggest slot machine win to date is simply staggering. It landed, not surprisingly, in Las Vegas when an unnamed LA software engineer wagered $100.00 on Megabucks at the Excalibur Casino.
True to its name, Megabucks returned a colossal sum of $39.7 Million. The record has stood since 2003 and will take some beating but if the mark is ever broken, we should continue to watch Las Vegas. This is the centre of slot play with around 200,000 machines available.
4. The Online Slot Machine Record is 17.8 Million Euros
Online slot jackpots haven’t, as yet, been able to match that incredible $39.7 million sum but they still manage to return some outstanding six figure numbers. The current record was set in 2013 and it stands at a seriously impressive 17,861,800 Euros.
It was won by a player in Finland, playing Mega Fortune and he was paid out in Euros. Based on August 2019 exchange rates, it translates to some £16.5 million
As for UK players, the current record stands at £13.2 million which was won by Jonathan Heywood with a modest 25p stake on Mega Moolah. If you want to read more about how progressive jackpot slots work, read our guide on those.
5. Slot Machines Must Pay at Least 70%
When you head to the online slots you may see the initials RTP. These letters stand for Return to Player and they relate to the money that is expected to be paid out in relation to player stakes. The UK Gambling Commission has decreed that the minimum RTP must be set by all online casinos at 70% - meaning that for every £1.00 staked, 70p must be paid out as an average.
That’s the set figure but it is only an average. If we look at some slots at random, King of Atlantis has an RTP of 96.14%, King Kong Fury is at 96.703% and, our most popular slot Koi Princess, comes in at 96.23%. Those figures are comfortably over the 70% minimum and, in fact, the average RTP for our slots is a healthy 97%.
6. Poker can be a Lucrative Second Career
What do sportsmen and women do when their playing careers come to an end? There are plenty of options but a select few have made a successful transition onto the poker tables. Former Spurs, Manchester United and England striker Teddy Sheringham is known to have made over £330,000 at the poker tables and there are many like him.
But it’s not only sportspeople that enjoy a highly lucrative career on the Tours. Writer and Broadcaster Victoria Coren Mitchell is a renowned player who has just returned to the tables following a break from the game. In her first stint as a professional poker player, Coren Mitchell became the first ever two-time winner of the prestigious European Poker Tour trophy.
7. Slots First Appeared in 1887
The origin of some of our favourite table games is often disputed but we know for certain that the first slot machine saw life way back in 1887. It was known as the Liberty Bell and was developed by Charles Fell who released the completed design in 1891.
That original slot was basic in construction but it was a groundbreaker and laid the path for a boom in slot machines. Read about slot strategy here.
8. The Longest Poker Game Lasted Over Eight Years
We know that, along with skill and a certain amount of luck, it also requires a degree of patience and stamina to really succeed at poker. In the modern era, tournaments will last for hours, days and even months but that’s nothing compared to the world poker endurance record.
1881 is the year and the basement of a theatre in Arizona is the location for a game which is said to have lasted for eight years, five months and three days. Surely there were breaks in between you say... but, legend has it that the game was played on a rolling 24 hour basis with occasional sleep and comfort breaks.
While hard evidence may be a little lacking in this story, it’s certain that an incredible marathon took place down in that theatre and, it is said that some $10,000,000 changed hands.
9. Robert Maxwell: The World’s Biggest Roulette Loser
We now switch from the card tables to the roulette wheel to pick up the tale of Robert Maxwell. The media mogul was a notorious and controversial figure during the 1980s and, among his many interests, he loved a few spins at the roulette tables.
One evening at Les Ambassadeurs Club in Mayfair, Maxwell managed to lose £1.5 million in three minutes while playing at three tables simultaneously. A staggering and record loss but it was one that the multi-millionaire businessman could presumably cover quite comfortably.
10. One Man Sold Everything and bet it on a Single Roulette Spin
Back in 2004, a TV series known as Double or Nothing hit the UK screens. It featured an English professional gambler by the name of Ashley Revell who aimed to sell all his possessions with a view to staking it all on the turn of a roulette wheel.
In time, through a series of car boot sales and auctions, Revell had raised £135,300 and he was left with no more than the clothes on his back. Heading to the roulette wheel at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, he staked it all on red and, thankfully for Revell and most of his television audience, number 7 Red landed and paid out a cool £270,600.
It was a heart in the mouth moment and one that made for great television so why not trawl the video sharing sites and check out the original footage.
2 Bonus facts about Casino
1. The Largest Casino in the US Covers 600,000 Square Feet
Las Vegas holds a number of gaming records but we have to move across the US to find the largest casino in the country. It’s called the WinStar World Casino and it’s situated in Thackerville Oklahoma and that puts it about an hour’s drive away from Oklahoma City.
It originally opened in 2003 but the WinStar was given a significant upgrade and expansion ten years later and it now covers a staggering 600,000 feet of floor space. Owned by the Chickasaw Nation, there are thousands of slots, card and roulette tables but with so much space, there’s much more to enjoy.
The WinStar World Casino also boast a hotel, two pools and no fewer than 12 restaurants. It truly is a monster but it is dwarfed by the world record holder. In Macao, the Venetian measures an astonishing 10,500,000 square feet.
2. What’s in a Name?
We talk about slot machines at Unibet but this term really only exists in American English. Here in the UK, players of a certain generation still like to refer to them as Fruit Machines - a name coined from the many fruit symbols that make up the reels.
The use of fruit in slot games continues in the digital age with games such as Jackpot Jester and Double Diamond using classic fruit symbols on the reels. Slot titles also pay homage and examples include the rather obvious Very Fruity and Fruit Blast.
In other parts of the world, slots or fruit machines are known by very different names. In Scotland, they call them Puggies while in Australia and New Zealand, you might play a few hands at the Pokies.