The history of casinos in Lugano dates back to 1804, when the first society was formed with the aim of creating a “cafe with games rooms”. They played a type of lottery known as ‘biribisso’, a card game called ‘bassetta’ and, of course, dice, but only during the Autumn Festival. There was an ongoing discussion on the relationship between tourism, theatre and casinos for many decades, until, in 1885, the Lugano Theatre Society (with a registered capital of 230,000 Swiss Francs and 177 shareholders, and with the municipality purchasing 100 of the 500 shares) was founded “to create a building for theatre and music performances, dances and in general shows of any sort that befit the nature and traditions of the theatre, with an adjoining cafe and restaurant”.
In 1912 the Theatre Society received a licence to manage small-scale gaming, and in 1922, the Society changed its name to the Lugano Casino Kursaal and Theatre Society, continuing to successfully manage the gaming directly.
Having overcome the difficulties resulting from the global financial crisis in 1929, the Kursaal Theatre increased its takings year on year, reaching a record 641,777 Francs in 1946, which coincided with a true rebirth of culture in the city, with a total of eight operas, 45 theatre shows, 16 concerts and 284 days of cinema showings.
In 1959, following a public vote, wagers increased from 2 to 5 Francs.
In 1970 the Municipality became the majority shareholder of the Society, purchasing 184 shares.
In 1992, following a change to federal legislation, slot machines were introduced to the Kursaal, in addition to roulette.
In 1993 the Constitution was revised, paving the way for ‘large-scale gaming’ in Switzerland, and Lugano obtained a licence to manage a Type A casino in the years that followed.
On 29 November 2002 Casinò Lugano SA opened to the public. It was a real gem amongst European casinos, a fact represented by the pearl in the logo. The current shareholders of Lugano's casino are the City of Lugano with 67% of the shares, Casinos Austria Swiss with 29% and a few small private shareholders.
On 29 November 2014 Casinò Lugano completely renovated its interior in the most significant restyling in its history.