Many people enjoy and revere gambling as a pastime. Casinos bear prominent positions in multi-million dollar film series. You can even find a slot machine at the corner cafe.
There are many online video slot machines, live dealer games, and even options to play virtual roulette. After seeing all this, it can set the mind to wondering about the origins of gambling.
Where did all this begin? Can we trace it back to some definite points in history? In this article, we’ll be having a detailed look at those very questions and informing you about the history and origins of gambling.
The History of Gambling: Mentions in Literature
Historically, many different nations have taken up gambling. Indeed, the ancient Romans indulged, as did the ancient Greeks, and even the ancient Chinese.
There are references in an ancient Chinese book: ‘The Book of Songs’ to an activity called ‘drawing the wood.’ Historians believe that this indicates some sort of gambling activity.
In works by the Greek poet Sophocles, he discusses dice in detail. Subsequently, he claims that a hero of lore invented them during the siege of Troy. Even in the Christian Bible, the Gospels referred to soldiers drawing the lots for Jesus’ clothing. As you can see, gambling has had a large effect on humanity as a whole, dating back to some of the earliest points of civilization.
The History of Gambling: Points of Interest
In this section, we’ll be looking at the origins and histories of certain games. To be clear, these games have been fundamental parts of making gambling what it’s today.
If your interest lies in sports wagering, we must tell you something at this junction. There’s an article elsewhere on this website relating to the history of sports betting.
Besides, as far as sports betting goes, in this article, we’ll tell you that sports betting, as we know it today, originated in Britain. The first bookie was a man named Harry Ogden, who set up a stall at a racetrack in Newmarket. He was the first individual to offer odds on individual horses and jockeys.
Up to that moment, the only wagering options that had been available were for or against the favourite. And so, Harry Ogden became the father of modern sports betting.
Keno is arguably one of the oldest forms of organized gambling. This game originated in ancient China, where they knew it as ‘baige piao’ which translates roughly to ‘white pigeon ticket’.
Initially, the game took place with the permission of the Chinese provincial governor. In return, he would receive a percentage of the profits.
Additionally, more often than not, the winnings from White pigeon ticket funded state activities.
You may be wondering what pigeons have to do with gambling. To clarify, historians believe that the name came from a mental link. Chinese gamblers associated the tickets used to play keno with the cards used with homing pigeons.
As we already mentioned, the Greek historian Sophocles believed that dice are of a supernatural origin. While we can’t deny this for sure, we do know that dice far predated the siege of Troy. We know this because, in an Egyptian tomb dated 3000 BC by historians, archaeologists have uncovered a set of dice.
Although Romans loved gambling, the Roman government forbade the activity in the city. So, in an attempt to avoid paying fines, the Romans developed the first gambling chips.
An understandable attempt, considering that fines equalled four times the value of the stake. If confronted by Roman guards, the gamblers would claim that they were not playing for real money.
Despite the unknown history of many card games, historians have done a fantastic job of establishing the history of playing cards. We’ll be having a look at some of the card games later on.
Historians and scholars believe that the ancient Chinese developed playing cards. Initially, legend has it. Playing cards were a paper version of Chinese dominoes.
This was around the 9th century, and historians agree that we would not have recognized them. To clarify, we may have understood them, but not as anything like the playing cards we’ve come to know and love.
Some time around the 14th century, the game we know as baccarat travelled from Italy to France. Subsequently, It grew in popularity and has undergone several hundred modifications (more or less). In fact, it has gone through so many variations that the standard version we play today originates in a deviation from Cuba.
Blackjack is one of the most debated games in the history of gambling. The debate is thanks in great part to a book by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (you know him as the man who wrote Don Quixote). As a result of his stories, many historians believe that blackjack has developed from a Spanish game called ventiuna – which translates to 21.
This would make sense since, as you know, blackjack aims to get a hand of cards equal to or below 21. In a similar vein, other historians believe that blackjack originated in a game from 1570. The French called this game Trente-un: which translates to 31.
Yet, other historians believe that blackjack has its roots in the game quinze, a French game far preceding the others. Quinze translates to 15.
Nonetheless, though a haze of mist and fog mask the origins of the game, most scholars agree on one thing. A 17th-century French game called ving-et-un is a more immediate ancestor of the blackjack we know.
Whatever the case may be, we can say with absolute certainty where the name blackjack originated. American settlers from France brought the game with them.
American dealers then offered 10 to 1 odds on any hands that one with a black ace of spades or ace of clubs. Later on, the 10 to 1 odds died, but the name will live forever.
The Origin of Casinos
The closest thing historically like casinos would be the gambling houses of Italy. These originated around the 17th century and were government-regulated. They aimed to provide controlled environments where gamblers could enjoy their play.
Italy called the group responsible for regulating the gambling houses the Ridotto. We could consider Ridotto the great uncle, several times removed, of our modern gambling commissions.
Subsequently, gambling houses began to spring up in many different places on the European mainland. With travellers to the Americas, came the gambling activity as well.
Much of the gambling activity in the US took place on steamboats in Mississippi. This is a rather strange coincidence since Mississippi is not today one of the states at the forefront of gambling advocacy.
Other GamesAt this junction, we’ll glance at a few more popular modern games and their origins before looking at the roots of online gambling.
Poker is another one of the popular games in modern society that is of unknown origin. Some historians claim that it originated in a game called poque, will others claim that another game gave birth to it.
The game, as we know it, was first recorded in the year 1829, and then became incredibly popular later on the Vegas gambling strips.
Yet another game that originated in Paris, roulette was initially known as the little wheel. Most gamblers now know the original version as the American version. But, they know the modified version as the European version.
According to gaming legend, this game was invented by Roman soldiers, who played with pig knucklebones as dice. Other historians believe that the game originated in an Arabic dice game.
There are a million and one other games that we’d love to discuss and discover the origins of. Yet, to get through all the games that we’d like to talk about, we need an entire book. To wrap up our game history section, we’ll be looking at a game that many gamblers know and love. Of course, that game is the slot machine.
They were initially known as one-armed bandits, and the very first slot machine met the public in 1887. They called it a poker gambling machine. This invention was by the duo Sittman and Pitt.
Despite only making its debut four years later in 1891, the most well-known original brand is the Liberty Bell machine. San Francisco resident Charles Fey was responsible for producing and inventing it.
It’s also worth mentioning that, in 1976, the Fortune Coin Company’s employees invented the first video slot machine. In a strange jest by fate, they developed the device in Kearny Mesa, California. This, despite the fact that Fortune Coin was a Las Vegas-based company. They built the first video slot machine using a modified Sony television, and it had a 19-inch display.
But, the first video slot machine was not the first electromechanical slot. In 1964, Bally Games released the first fully electromechanical slot machine. They named the device Money Honey.
Gambling as we know it: the origins
We’re quite confident that many of you would like to know how modern online gambling came about.
Microgaming developed the first online gambling software. Many of you are already familiar with this slot machine and gaming provider. After all, it has become one of the top providers in the world today.
Yet it was only in 1994 that doors began to open for online gambling as a whole. It was then that Antigua and Barbuda passed an act called the free trade and processing act.
The act granted licenses, thus opening the way for organizations to open online gambling institutions.
Despite many ups and downs, the act was the beginning of online gambling as we know it today. Later on, various areas of the world established gambling commissions and gaming authorities. Each separate commission helps to regulate the gambling trade in a specific region. Today, no online casino can legally operate without a license from one of these commissions or authorities.
Microgaming produces live dealer gambling games. Similarly, many companies provide video slots. Additionally, there are many other ways of gambling online.
Who would have thought all this started with some ancient civilizations betting on animal fights?