Live music entertainment has always been part of casino fun, at least until the rise of online and virtual casinos. When you bet with Cozino for example, you can choose whatever music you personally like to listen to on a device that you’re using. Perhaps having the option to choose music in online casino games would mark a new turn for the history of music in casinos.
The first casinos didn’t necessarily include gambling. The term “casino” is of Italian origin and was originally used for small country villas or social clubs intended for various pleasurable activities, in particular dancing and music listening. Such were, for example, Villa Giulia and Villa Farnese in Italy and Newport Casino in the US, which included a theatre that could be turned into a dancing hall.
However, the real history of music in casinos starts in the US, with saloons as first gambling establishments. Saloons regularly offered live piano music and singing. Saloon music evolved into ragtime in the 19th century and eventually into Honky-Tonk piano.
Early in the 20th century, the state banned gambling and alcohol, leading to the decline of saloons and the emergence of speakeasies: illegal drinking and gambling establishments that became a lively scene for new styles of music, most notably jazz. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, jazz became popular among the youth, especially in big cities: New Orleans, Chicago, and San Francisco. The Prohibition era gave birth to some of the best jazz musicians ever, such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Joe “King” Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman and Bing Crosby.
When gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, this marked a new age for music in casinos: the golden days of Vegas. Previous owners of illegal casinos soon started funding the building of great luxurious hotels, such as the Sahara, New Frontier, and the Riviera. Each hotel hired a full-time orchestra or band, which lead to the blooming musical industry in the 50’s and 60’s. Among others, Elvis and Frank Sinatra regularly held concerts in Vegas. The demand for musicians was so huge that there were more jobs open than there were performers to fill them.
During the 1960s, instrumental bands were in their prime, and there were lots of them: Las Vegas Boulevard Hotel Symphony, the Las Vegas Civic Orchestra, the Las Vegas Jazz Septet, the Las Vegas Brass Sextet, and the Las Vegas Philharmonic.
However, as corporate entities started taking over property in Vegas in the 1970s, they increasingly started seeing live performances as unprofitable and started replacing them with taped music, bringing the golden days of casino music to an end. However, as we said in the beginning, music is still part of the casino experience for many who enjoy it while playing online casino games.