Casinos and Dating in the Victorian Era
History of Casinos

Casinos weren’t always filled with slot machines, poker rooms, and jackpots. In fact, not so very long ago, casinos were the dancehalls where the young and well-to-do would meet to begin a courtship. 

Initially, the word “casino” referred to a small villa in the countryside, usually a summer home for a wealthy family.  During the 19th century, the term “casino” came to include other public buildings where pleasurable activities took place.  A casino was a social club where men and women would participate in dancing, gambling, sporting events and concerts.

The primary way of knowing who was available to date in the Victorian Era was by attending events such as balls or concerts. For the very wealthy, these events were held in private homes.  However, if the gathering was too large for the family home, or if the family’s residence was too far for their guests to comfortably travel to, a social club would be the site for these events.  Wealthy families at the turn of the century hosted a “coming out” for their daughters.  This event, which generally consisted of a ball – though gambling was often available in other rooms for the married men – indicated that this particular daughter was interested in finding potential suitors.  Oftentimes, more than one family would present a daughter to society.  In these instances, a neutral space for a coming out ball was a welcome option to lessen the burden on families of less than extravagant means.

In the Victorian Era, dating was expected to end in marriage, though at this time middle and working class families began exploring more liberal practices in the realm of dating.  They allowed young men and women to mingle individually in chaperoned venues such as casinos.  This practice is the precursor to modern dating.  However, high society families did not permit their daughters to go out alone to meet a gentleman.  Single females required their mothers’ permission and had to be accompanied by an elderly chaperone when in the presence of a male.  These young women would be escorted to the casino by a spinster aunt or widowed grandmother, to meet their potential suitors for a dance, to take in a concert, or watch a sporting event.

Casinos began as the go-to place for the young and unattached to have fun. Today, they remain a fun and exciting space for people of all ages and relationship statuses.

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