The History Of Gambling

  • Updated
  • By Rachael Phillips
history of gambling

From basic games of chance being discovered on tiles in ancient China to the world's oldest known dice being unearthed in Egypt, humans have been gambling for years. But where did it begin?

Where did gambling start?

It's thought that gambling dates back to the Paleolithic period when the earliest six-sided dice was found. This dice was thought to have dated back to around 3000 BC. However, evidence shows that gambling houses in China were widespread in the first millennium BC, where betting on animals was a common practice.

Lottery games also emerged in China around the 10th century. This required the approval of the provincial governor, who took a percentage of the profits. The winnings from these games were often used to finance state works. 

Lotteries have gone on to give us some of the world’s best-known institutions; even Harvard and Yale were started using lottery funds.

Card games are also attributed to being started in China, making their appearance in the 9th century. The games that were played still remain unknown but the cards don't resemble our modern day versions.

Research shows that the cards were often decorated with humans. However, once games started spreading to Europe, Kings and Queens began appearing on the cards, resulting in the cards we know and love today.  

And then came regulation…

As gambling spread across the world, it started to become more organised and therefore regulated.  

The first gambling house set up was the Ridotto, which started operating in 1638 in Venice, Italy. It was set up by the Great Council of Venice to offer controlled gambling during carnival season.

Popular casino games such as roulette were also said to be invented around this time. A popular theory is that roulette was created by a French scientist around 1655 whilst he was on a religious retreat.

Blaise Pascal developed the game to ease boredom. This game, of course, went on to become one of the most popular casino games in the world.

In American history, the first gambling establishments were known as saloons, influenced by four major US cities: New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco.

Saloons were a place where people could talk, drink and gamble. However, in the early 20th century, gambling became outlawed in America and banned by state law reformers.

In 1931, gambling was once against legalised throughout the state of Nevada where America’s first casinos were set up in Las Vegas, which to this day remains one of the world's most popular gambling destinations.

In the early 1970’s, New Jersey legalised gambling and Atlantic City soon became America’s second largest gambling city.

Next step? Online.

With casinos and betting shops becoming the norm, it was time for the gambling industry to evolve once again. This time, on the world wide web. In 1994 Antigua and Barbuda passed the Free Trade and Processing Act which allowed licenses to be given to organisations applying to create online casinos.

This meant that a whole new world was now opening up for traditional gambling businesses. But, before they could operate, they needed safe, secure software that would allow the games to work online.

This software was developed by Microgaming, which has since gone on to become one of the largest casino and slot developer in the world. They partnered with a security software company called Cryptologic and the first online casino was launched.

Since then online gambling has become a multi-billion pound industry, with all kinds of games and events being introduced from horse racing to bingo.

The first live dealer casinos were launched in 2003 which paved the way for many of the casino sites we have today.

Gambling on the move

Online gambling has let people bet at any time, anywhere. But as technology advances, the online gaming industry does too. Mobile gambling became the next major step in the history of gambling.

With people using their desktop and laptops less and their tablets and phones more, opportunities became available for app development and mobile online gambling.

Players of online games now have the option to not only play at their own convictions but gamble anywhere that has an internet connection – at home or even on the bus to work.

Gambling and crime

One area of gambling that has remained the same since it’s invention is its link to crime. Casinos have a long history linked with organised crime, with early casinos in Las Vegas being controlled by the American mafia.

It’s not just organised crime that has an effect on the gambling industry. Gambling addiction can also have an impact. Statistics show a correlation between gambling addicts and the likelihood of committing a crime to support their addiction.

The future of gambling

With technology and trends moving fast who knows where the gambling industry will go? Currently, evidence shows that cryptocurrencies are becoming a popular payment system within casinos.

Cryptocurrencies are providing transaction transparency, lower transaction costs and instant withdrawals. Some bitcoin casinos are even allowing users to fund the casinos with this currency and, in return, profit from a share of the house edge.

The opportunity to indulge in gambling has never been easier than it is today and with advancing technologies and our thirst for gaming, it's set to continue and will only get better.