A casino is a place where people can play gambling games, but not all casinos are equal. Some have more extravagant amenities, like elaborate stage shows and luxurious accommodations. But others offer more straightforward gaming options, such as roulette, baccarat and blackjack. And still others have a different focus, such as Asian games like sic bo, fan-tan and pai gow.
The elegant spa town of Baden-Baden was a popular playground for royalty and Europe’s elite 150 years ago, when this grand casino opened. With baroque flourishes inspired by the Palace of Versailles, and a red-and-gold poker room that Marlene Dietrich once called “the most beautiful in the world,” it’s no wonder that this casino remains one of the world’s most celebrated.
Today, its visitors are more diverse—from the world’s movie stars to affluent tourists. But it’s the place where compulsive gamblers generate a disproportionate share of profits, sapping local business, and even reducing property values in nearby neighborhoods.
From its beginnings as a mobster haven in Reno and Las Vegas, the casino industry has become dominated by deep-pocketed legitimate businessmen. Real estate investors and hotel chains saw that they could make big bucks from people who came to their casinos to play, eat, drink and gamble. And federal crackdowns on mob influence, along with the threat of losing a gambling license at the slightest hint of tampering, ensure that the mafia is no longer an owner or manager in a casino.