A Brief History of Gambling – How it All Began

Gambling has existed in various forms for hundreds, if not thousands of years and is integrally connected with human history. It appears that no matter how far back through time you go, there is evidence that wherever groups of people started gathering, gambling was undoubtedly going to take place.

Gambling existed long before people invented fiat money. Before betting on money, people would wager on their possessions such as food, property, or farm animals. With technology advancement, gambling has evolved significantly over the years. However, the original concept of gambling has remained essentially unchanged over millennia.

Gambling began to use money when the first currency was created in the 7th century. It remained unchanged after that until the 17th century, when supervised gambling venues, often known as casinos, were established. People would prefer to wager in these locations over the seclusion of someone’s house, back alleyways, or drinking places. Some researchers think that the casino originated in Italy, and that it expanded throughout Europe before arriving in the United States. Gambling made its online debut with the birth of the internet and has since grown to become a multibillion-dollar business on a global scale.


The First Evidence of Gambling


Even though some forms of betting have almost certainly existed since the beginning of human civilization, the oldest known actual evidence within history of gambling comes from Ancient China, where tiles were discovered that appeared to have been used for a basic game of chance. Based on a reference in the Chinese book “Book of Songs” to a wood drawing, the tiles could have been an element of a lottery game. In 200 B.C. Chinese used items as money to finance government projects, according to historical records, which would potentially include the construction of the Great Wall of China. Keno Slips were the name of the item. Many researchers have also agreed that the first card game emerged in China in the 9th century. The cards were often painted with human shapes, but as the games expanded across Europe, the recognizable Kings and Queens started appearing. The rules of the gambling game, as well as all of the instructions for playing it, were lost over time.


Ancient Greece and Rome


Sophocles, the Greek poet, stated that dice were created by a mythological hero during the siege of Troy. Although this may have a questionable basis in reality, his manuscripts around 500 B.C. were the first reference of dice in Greek history. Dice existed much earlier than this, as evidenced by the discovery of a pair in an Egyptian tomb dating back to 3000 B.C.

We know that the Greeks and Romans enjoyed gambling on pretty much everything they could think of. All forms of gambling were prohibited in ancient Rome, and those caught doing so faced a penalty of quadrupling their bet. As a result, Roman citizens created the first gambling chips, allowing them to claim that they were only playing for chips and not real money if they were apprehended by the guards.


Italy and France


The very first game being played in casinos nowadays is Baccarat, a two-player card game that was first documented in the 15th century when it traveled from Italy to France. Despite its early origins, the game we know today evolved over hundreds of years and through several modifications. Although other versions of the game have existed, the classic version found in casinos across the world originated in Cuba and traveled to the United States via Britain, with a few rule changes along the way. Although baccarat seems more like a spectator sport than a game, it is available in almost every casino because of its appeal among high-rolling players.




The seventeenth century French game of vingt-et-un (translated to 21) is unquestionably a direct ancestor of contemporary blackjack, having arrived in the United States with early French immigrants. Only the dealer could double in this initial version. There were several variations when it came to the United States. The term “blackjack” was established in the United States and is associated with special promotions in Nevada casinos in the 1930s. To entice more clients, 10 to 1 odds were offered if the player won with a black Jack of Clubs or Spades and an Ace of Spades. The special odds didn’t persist long because they were apparently not very profitable, but the term lives on.


Paris’ Little Wheel


The wheel we now identify as the American Roulette wheel originated in the gambling rooms of Paris. It required another 50 years for the European version with only one green zero to appear. Throughout the nineteenth century, roulette gained in popularity, and when the famed Monte Carlo casino accepted the single zero version of the game, it spread across Europe and the rest of the world, but Americans continued to use the initial double zero wheels.


The Origins of Poker


Poker was most likely developed over decades, if not centuries, of various types of card games. Versions of the gambling game date back to the 17th century in Persia. Others, however, claim that the game was inspired by a French game called Poque. The game’s popularity grew slowly until the 1970s, when international poker tournaments began in Las Vegas. With the introduction of internet poker and broadcast events, the popularity of poker skyrocketed.


Online and Mobile Gambling


Playtech launched the first live dealer casinos in 2003, moving closer to a mix of brick and mortar casinos and the digital reality. After the state of New Jersey legalized internet gambling in 2011, people’s interest in online gambling games has skyrocketed.

Technological advancements have enticed a new generation of participants. Evidence indicates that online gamblers are less likely to use desktop computers and are more likely to use mobile devices.

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