Gambling has been a popular pastime for centuries. Ever since ancient times, people have been engaging in various forms of gambling. Even though the activity has been changing over time, its purpose has remained the same.
In this article, we will review gambling from the early beginnings to nowadays. We will go through the history of the activity, starting from the first gambling games known to man and ending with the modern form of gambling.
Gambling has probably existed since the dawn of humanity. People have always enjoyed playing games. Moreover, competitiveness is part of human nature. However, written evidence does not go so far as to give us an insight into the very first game ever played. But what we do know for sure based on evidence is that gambling dates back to Ancient China. According to tiles that have been unveiled during archeological research, we assume that the ancient Chinese used them to engage in a basic game of chance. Additionally, there is a reference to writing on wood in the Chinese “Book of songs.” Based on these two clues, we can only presume that the ancient people used the tiles for some kind of a lottery game. All in all, lottery has remained popular throughout history. Keno slips dating to 200 BC confirm that statement.
Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome
According to the Greek poet Sophocles, a mythical hero created the first dice during the Trojan War. However, dice themselves date further back than the written evidence about them. The first pair of dice known to mankind was unearthed in Egypt. Allegedly, they date all the way back to 3000 BC. Nevertheless, dice in Greek poetry do not come as a surprise. Ancient Greeks and Romans were notorious for their eagerness to gamble. Although all forms of gambling were illegal in the ancient city of Rome, people did not refrain from this activity. Instead, they designed the first gambling chips and claimed to have been playing for fun, not real money.
The First Card Games
While dice games originated in the ancient era, many games, including cards, are more recent. Allegedly, the first cards with the purpose of playing games date back to 9th century China. However, the rules of those games are unclear, which has led people to draw their own conclusions. Some think that their purpose was for playing and wagering at the same time. Others, however, believe that these cards were a rudimentary form of Chinese domino. Whichever way it may be, the only thing that is certain is that the cards from this story do not resemble contemporary decks of 52 playing cards.
The 15th Century
One of the casino games that has been popular ever since the 1400s is the two-player game of Baccarat. Moreover, it is still quite common at contemporary casinos. As far as we know, gambling enthusiasts played this game for the first time in the 15th century. It migrated to France from Italy at that time. Nevertheless, the fact that Baccarat is available at modern casinos does not mean that the game has not changed over time. The versions of this game we are familiar with today and the one from six centuries ago do not even share the same origin. The one we’re used to playing made its way from Cuba, through Britain, to the US.
Blackjack Through History
The origin of the game of Blackjack is uncertain. Some people claim that it originated from the Spanish game ventiuna. Cervantes mentioned that one in the 17th century in his novel “Don Quixote.” Others believe the first form of Blackjack appeared a few decades earlier, as a game called trente-un. There are even some who think of it as a game of French origins, relating Blackjack to the game named quinze. Regardless of the true origin of Blackjack, its direct ancestor is vingt-et-un. This French game migrated from France to the United States, brought by the early French settlers. The name we know today, however, is purely American, as it originated in the 1930s in Nevada.
The First Gambling Venues
The earliest form of a gambling venue that resembles the contemporary casinos appeared in Italy during the 17th century. The venue we are talking about is Ridotto in Venice. It was set up during carnival season in order to provide gambling to the surrounding areas, where it could be supervised. Afterward, during the 19th century, the habit of creating special venues for gambling spread all across Europe. Interestingly enough, American gambling venues of the era used to be much more informal. It was not until after the Depression in America that the gambling scenery in the US as we know it was established. As you can see, the casinos of Las Vegas may be synonyms for brick-and-mortar casinos today, but they are far from the original gambling venues.
The Rise of Roulette
Ironically, the Roulette wheel we now call the American Roulette wheel originated in Paris in the 18th century. The European version, which proved to be more profitable for the players, appeared half a century later. The game of Roulette has been gaining in popularity ever since it appeared. However, the true expansion of the game happened as late as the 19th century, when the Monte Carlo casino accepted the newer version. The other continental gambling venues followed, which resulted in the worldwide popularization of the European Roulette. The United States, however, continued using the authentic wheel, which contains two zeros and is now known as the American Roulette wheel.
The Development of Poker
In spite of the origin of poker being uncertain, nowadays, it is the most popular and the most frequently played card game. It has probably been evolving for decades or even centuries from some card game before it finally assumed the form we are all familiar with today. Some relate it to 17th-century Persia, whereas others claim its origin to be French. The earliest form of poker resembling the contemporary version of the game was played in 1829, in New Orleans, according to some reports. Moreover, the expansion of the game was slow until the first poker tournaments in Las Vegas took place in the 1970s. Additionally, the game acquired even more fans and players thanks to online gambling and various movies in which it was one of the themes.
The First Slot Machines
The earliest gaming machine resembling modern slots appeared at the end of the 19th century in New York. The concept of the game implied 52 cards on reels, as the initial idea was for the machine to feature a form of a poker game. Within the same time frame, a machine named Liberty Bell was designed in San Francisco. The latter is considered to be the true ancestor of modern slot machines. There is a fun fact regarding the name of the authentic machine — its name was One-armed Bandit, due to its appearance.
Since we’ve established that the true forefather of today’s slots is Liberty Bell, you should know where the bell symbols on video slots come from. The original machines used to award cigars and gums, but the prizes soon began involving monetary rewards. The first video slots followed in the 1970s, paving the path for the online slot games we play today.
American Gambling Market
The status of gambling in the United States has been vague ever since the arrival of the first European settlers. Whereas Puritans prohibited gambling in their areas, the settlers from England viewed the activity in a different way, ultimately allowing it. Due to disputes originating from such an ambivalence, the United States legally restricted gambling in the early years of the 20th century. However, the prohibition did not result in the complete disappearance of gambling. People secretly continued engaging in the activity. Moreover, the authorities recognized gambling as legal again right after the Great Depression in the 1930s. Nowadays, different states have different views on the subject. Whereas gambling is generally legal in some states, such as Nevada and New Jersey, online gaming remains only vaguely regulated. The reason is the outdated legal documents which cannot keep up with the expansion of the gambling industry.
Gambling in the Information Age
Online gambling as a branch of the industry started expanding in 1994. Microgaming, a software provider that has remained famous up to this day, launched the first virtual casino and slot games. Ever since it appeared, virtual gambling has been growing and gaining in popularity. Nowadays, it is a multibillion-dollar industry. The link between traditional, land-based casinos and their online counterparts was created in 2003 when the first live dealer virtual casinos started operating.
The gambling timeline reached new heights in the 21st century. Recently, online casinos started offering the possibility of accessing their games via mobile devices. The number of virtual gambling venues that feature this option has been growing, along with the expansion of the mobile industry. Modern people are always on the go, which makes mobile gambling a real blessing.
The Timeline Continues
Based on this brief review of the history of gambling, it is apparent that the activity has changed and evolved a lot since it first appeared. And due to the constant expansion of technology, gambling will certainly achieve new heights and modify accordingly.