Casinos as official institutions have been around since the Il Ridotto opened its doors in Venice, in 1638. Over the centuries, their numbers have multiplied, and some of these worthy establishments have become better known than the others, if not downright legendary. This article, in two parts, lists the world’s top ten casinos.
10. Sun City Casino, South Africa
Sun City Casino belongs to the Sun City Resort complex that is located some 2 hours from Johannesburg, in the North West Province, South Africa. The Resort and Casino were developed by Solomon (Sol) Kerzner and opened in 1979. At that time, the location was called the Republic of Bophuthatswana (translated as “gathering of the Tswana people”), a territory declared independent, though its independence was never recognized by other countries. Gambling was banned in South Africa, but Bophuthatswana, as a nominally independent Republic, legalized gambling, and the Sun City soon gained great popularity.
Over the years, Sun City became a venue for many famous performers, such as Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Elton John, and Queen.
Today, the Casino, with more than 800 slot machines and a large variety of traditional games, such as poker, baccarat, blackjack, and roulette, is listed among world’s best casino resorts.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino located in Atlantic City, New Jersey, US, was formerly known as the Trump Taj Mahal Casino. At the time of its opening in 1990, it was owned by Donald Trump. It cost approximately a billion dollars to build, and included, besides several restaurants, the first in-casino strip club in the US. It was called the largest casino in the world, though that title was disputed. It was also rumored to be the favorite gambling place of the Russian mobsters from Brooklyn. Until 2003, Taj Mahal was considered the highest-grossing casino in the Atlantic City. It also holds the record for the highest-ever penalty levied against a casino: in 2015, it was fined $10 million for violating the anti-money laundering regulations.
Taj Mahal was closed in 2016, and reborn in 2017 as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Ponte 16 Resort Macau opened in February 2008. The place started as a port, which gradually built up its reputation for gambling, as the Chinese gangs and triads (organized crime groups that originate from Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) moved in. The Inner Harbour, at the center of which Ponte 16 is located, was a massive cultural and economic hub until 1970, when the Hong Kong - Macau Ferry Terminal was relocated, and thus pulled the commercial flow away.
A special feature of Pont 16 is the MJ Gallery that displays a collection of items that belonged to Michael Jackson. For example, there is the glove that Jackson wore during his first performance of the now-iconic moonwalk on television. The casino purchased it for $350,000 at the Julien’s Auctions.
The casino houses more than 300 slot machines, more than a hundred gaming tables, as well as the VIP halls and clubs.
The Kurhaus of Baden-Baden, located in the famous spa town of Baden-Baden in southwestern Germany, hosts a conference complex, a spa resort, and a casino. The Kurhaus, designed by Friedrich Weinbrenner, an architect and city planner known for his excellent command of the classical style, was built in the 1820-s. However, the casino only started to gain popularity a decade later, when France banned gambling, so that the lovers of the games of chance, mostly aristocrats, would cross the border to play at Baden-Baden. The casino survived through various historical and political calamities. In 1872, Chancellor Bismark prohibited gambling, and the casino closed down for 61 years, reopening only in 1933. It then stayed in operation for 11 years and closed down again in 1944, for six years more.
During its lifetime, the casino has received many notable guests. Marlene Dietrich called this gem of the Imperial German luxury “The most beautiful casino in the world”, and the famous Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote his short novel “The Gambler” after he had visited the Baden-Baden Kurhaus. In 2004 film adaptation of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Becky Sharp is shown working as a dealer at the luxurious Baden-Baden Casino.
The casino offers its guests more than a hundred slot machines and over twenty gaming tables with a classical selection of such games as roulette, baccarat, and poker.
Marina Bay Sands is located on the shores of the Marina Bay in Singapore. It opened in 2010 and cost about S$8 billion, which makes it the most expensive standalone casino property in the world. Besides the hotel, the casino, and various restaurants, the resort includes an exhibition center, a mall, a museum, and theatres. Another major attraction is the world’s largest elevated infinity pool: it is 146 meters long and located 191 meters above the ground.
The spectacular destruction of the Marina Bay Sands was shown on the wide screen in the 2016 "Independence Day: Resurgence" movie.
Marina Bay Sands Casino is the largest casino in Singapore. It has 1500 machines and close to 600 gaming tables. While the locals must pay $100 entry fee, the tourists are admitted for free.
Words: Jelena Schmidt