Unusually, for a large European capital, Rome doesn’t have any casinos, and options for poker seem limited. Residents and visitors to the city must travel elsewhere to find the greatest gambling entertainment on offer or take to their computer screens and mobiles for online poker, accessible across the nation. Here is a guide to the poker landscape in Italy.
Poker and Gambling in Italy
With a history dating all the way back to the Roman Empire where sports competitions and dice games led to an almost compulsive need across all stratum of society, you would think that Rome would still be a centre for gaming and betting today. However, that is not the case.
Perhaps the bright lights of modern gaming establishments would not sit well with the charm of the city, but either way, Rome is without a casino. Sure, it has incredible attractions, architecture and places to eat, but it lacks in the casino department.
Across Greater Italy, the first public gaming house opened in Venice in 1638, and you’ll find both a traditional and modern casino there today, one of which offers poker. Baccarat and bingo or at least pre-requisites of the game were both popular in the 15th-century Italy, and even the word ‘casino’ has originated here.
Still, gambling has faced turbulent times recently, with legislation preventing or severely restricting many forms of betting. The rules have now slackened, but still, there are only four land-based casinos throughout the whole of Italy (one recently closed), a few of which offer poker. Texas Hold ‘em is the main game, but casinos may also offer Caribbean Stud, which is similar to Seven-Card Stud poker, and Italian Telesma, which is closer to Five-Card Stud.
Casinos in Italy
As mentioned, there are no casinos in Rome. There are, however, a total of four land-based casinos across the whole of Italy (five, including the closed one). They are all mentioned here, though only a few offers live poker.
Casino de la Vallée
Located at the Saint Vincent Resort & Casino, close to the Swiss border, this one is the largest casino in Italy. It is unlikely that you’ll visit here as a day trip, as Saint Vincent is over 700km from Rome and a seven+ hour drive or eight hours if you want to avoid Milan and drive up the cost to Genoa. It’s a summer holiday destination, and if you visit, it’s worth staying a few days.
The casino has an impressive amount of table games, nearly 100 in total, and 500 slot machines and is open 24/7. Poker tables are also accessible at any hour as long as there are players. Cash games run at €2.5/5 blinds, and tournaments take place regularly. The Casino de la Vallée has hosted major events such as the International Poker Tour (IPT).
Casinò di Venezia
There are, in fact, two casinos in Venice, both owned by the same company. The first is the Casinò di Venezia on the Grand Canal. Set on the banks and within the old grand palace, this is a remarkable place to play, with a historical and sophisticated feel. There’s a smart dress code after 3:30 p.m., so bring a jacket. Unfortunately, there are no poker cash games right now.
The second is near the Marco Polo Airport and is the first ‘American-style’ casino in Italy. Expect the glitz and glamour and relative tackiness of Vegas, with 600 slot machines and loads of table games. Poker cash tables are open from 3:30 p.m. until the casino shuts at 3:15 a.m., and there are also scheduled tournaments.
Venice is around 550km from Rome and takes around five hours to drive, but it is firmly on the tourist radar, and many will already visit this beautiful city.
Casinò di Campione d’Italia (Currently Closed)
The Casinò di Campione d’Italia is a huge casino located on the shores of Lake Lugano and situated in an Italian municipality within the Swiss borders. It’s nearly as far from Rome as the Casino de la Vallée. It was a known hotbed for poker, with cash games and tournaments as well as 550 slots, and many other table games. It closed after facing bankruptcy in 2018.
Casinò di Sanremo
The Casinò di Sanremo is close to the French border at around 650km from Rome, and a French architect designed the stunning exterior in 1905. It has 480 slots and a fair selection of table games. You won’t find craps here, but you’ll find plenty of poker tournaments and cash games, including Italian Telesma. The Casinò di Sanremo also hosts major live poker events.
Online Poker in Italy
Poker is officially recognised as a game of skill in Italy, meaning it is subject to a more relaxed policy than other forms of gambling. The Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) regulates the online market, and operators must have a license.
The online gambling market has also been ‘fenced’, meaning players only compete against others who have an Italian fiscal code. A tax applies to the rake and tournament fees, which the site covers but may reflect in higher rake.
Online poker operators offer a wide selection of cash games and tournaments, accessible to Italian residents. As such, it may be easier for residents to access online poker than to find live games, especially those who live in Rome, which, as we have seen, is hundreds of miles from any major casino.