The Origins of Gambling
The practice of gambling, wagering, betting, gaming - believe it or not – predates the invention of writing and has its origins in the late Paleolithic era (which lasted roughly 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 B.C.). Yes, back when we were living in caves or huts and were hunters and gatherers. And we gambled! No one knows exactly how old gambling is, but it seems that some form existed almost as long humans had.
Here we propose a timeline of how and when gambling developed from actual evidence unearthed, or later, from written accounts. And end up on where we are today.
3000 BC - A pair of dice were recovered from an Egyptian tomb dating back 5000 years.
2300 BC - In Ancient China, small wooden tiles were unearthed which appear to have been used for a type of lottery. Further evidence of keno ‘slips’ from.
200 BC - Suggest that lotteries were used to fund state works, possibly even the Great Wall of China, and lotteries serve that purpose even today. Did you know that lottery funds were used build Harvard and Yale?
500 BC – although we know dice had been around for millennia already, Sophocles mentions dice for the first time in Greek history. What is clear is that the Ancient Greeks and Romans loved gambling and even had gods and godesses dedicated to gambling and fortune, as did many other cultures as well.
800 AD – the first playing cards appeared in China in the 9th century, although they bore no resemblance to cards used today, and how the game was played is lost to history.
1400’s - Baccarat was first played at this time and was first mentioned when it made its way from Italy to France. The rules have since changed many times and the game we know today came from Cuba via Britain to the US.
1600’s – there are a number of games from this period that can lay claim to being the progenitors of blackjack although the French game of vingt-et-un is the most obvious. Blackjack was initially brought to the US by early French settlers. The name ‘blackjack’ was an American invention when Nevada casinos in the 1930s put on a special promotion. 10 to 1 odds were paid out if the player won with a black Jack of Clubs or Spades together with an Ace of Spades. The odds are long gone but the name stuck.
1796 – Roulette made its debut in the gaming houses of Paris. Originally the wheel had two green zeros, the very one now referred to as the American Roulette wheel. Hugely popular by the 1900s, the famous Monte Carlo casino installed roulette tables with just one green zero, and it became known as the much more popular European Roulette wheel and adopted all over the world, except the USA, who has stuck with the old version.
1829 – The game we know as poker had rather murky beginnings, growing organically and transforming here and there and everywhere over decades and possibly centuries. What is known is that an English actor reported seeing a recognizable form of poker being played in New Orleans in 1829, so that’s a good enough date to mark its birth. Poker wasn’t that particularly popular until the 1970s and the advent of poker tournaments. Poker’s popularity exploded with the birth of the internet and live televised streaming.
1891 – One Armed Bandits hit New York. Little did people realize that this simple table-top machine would change the face of gambling forever. As slot machines got more and more sophisticated and became the biggest draw card in brick and mortar casinos. What would a casino be without the flashing lights, the music, alarm bells going off when a jackpot had been won?
1976 – The first video slot was developed, paving the way for the eruption of technological advancements in computer technology that would come into play in our daily lives and in the gambling industry.
2022 – Online gambling has grown into a multibillion dollar industry with over 1000 online casinos. More and more, the move is to go mobile.
Never forget though, we are only doing what our ancient ancestors did instinctively and enjoyed, just with a few more bells and whistles!