The Casino Estoril is the largest of Portugal’s casinos with 21 gaming tables and some 1,000 slot and video poker machines. In fact, it may well be Europe’s largest casino, as the Portuguese claim, but with the building programs going on that might not last much longer.
One of the things that makes the Casino Estoril so different amongst not just Portugal’s casinos but the others of Europe is the role it had from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. Estoril was quite the most fashionable part of Europe for a certain set. After World War One, Dr. Salazar set Portugal up as a Fascist State: that doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that would make a place popular, we know. However, what it did mean was that as the various problems arose in Central Europe, the various revolutions and so on, and then WWII itself, Portugal was seen as a safe haven for those with money. So there were a lot of dispossessed aristocrats, even some royalty, that made their way to Estoril over those years. The fact that Portugal (like Spain) was not in WWII either helped as well. It wasn’t until Grace Kelly’s marriage to Prince Rainier after WWII that Monaco usurped that position as “the” place to be.
A list of Portugal’s casinos includes:
Espinho : Casino Solverde de Espinho
Estoril: Casino Estoril
Figuera da Foc: Casino Figuera da Foz
Madeira: Casino da Maderia and Casino Park Hotel
Monte Gordo: Casino Monte Gordo
Portimao: Hotel Algarve Casino
Povoa de Varzin: Casino Povoa de Varzim
Quarteira: Casino de Vilamoura
In addition to this list of long-established Portugal casinos, an entirely new one opened in April 2006 in Lisbon called, amazingly, the Casino Lisbon.
There’s another reason why the Casino Estoril is quite the grandest of Portugal’s casinos, over and above those inter-war years. The entire area around Estoril has been the playground of the rich Portuguese for centuries. Just north is Sintra (which is where Lord Byron wrote Childe Harold), which is where the Portuguese landowners would vacation in the cool away from the stifling summer heat of the plains. As fashions changed and people decided that being by the sea on vacation was the thing to do, then the nearest two villages to Sintra were Estoril and Cascais. Both places still keep that aura as a place for the rich to vacation, far away from the hordes of the less wealthy, who tend to use the beaches on the other side of the river from Lisbon.