History of Gambling

Gambling seems to be a basic part of human nature, dating back thousands of years. The history of gambling started in ancient times, probably around the time the first ever currency was developed. Though the way we gamble, and the events we wager on have changed drastically throughout the years, the concept has always been the same.

The oldest artifacts found in the history of gambling date back as far as 2300 B.C., where implements believed to be associated with gambling have been found. Moving forward a few hundred years, a pair of ivory dice were found in Egypt, carbon dated as being made sometime before 1500 B.C. Writings were actually discovered on a tablet in the Pyramids of Giza that related to forms of gambling.

Gambling has played a significant role in the history of many nations throughout time. One particular story relates to the ownership of Hising, once claimed to be a part of both Sweden and Norway. The Kings of both nations (each named King Olaf, incidentally), could not diplomatically resolve which country the predominantly isolated land of Hising belonged to. So, they decided to roll a pair of dice.

According to history, the first roll resulted in both Kings rolling double sixes. On the second try, the King of Sweden rolled double sixes again. The King of Norway rolled one die, which came up a six. Upon rolling the second die, history says the die cracked, but came up a seven. Norway was awarded the district of Hising, and both Kings walked away without dispute.

Many countries actually prohibited their soldiers from taking part in gambling activities because it distracted them from their military duties. One such case occurred in England under  King Henry VIII. He prohibited any member of the army from gambling as they were spending more time gambling than practicing marksmanship or conducting drills.

The history of gambling with cards is believed to have derived from China, since the Chinese were the first to develop paper and paper currency. It is alleged that around 900 A.D., the Chinese introduced the practice of shuffling paper money; which in turn lead to the shuffling of cards.

Card playing then migrated to the Mameluke Empire. Being Muslims, Mamelukes decorated their playing cards with elaborate patterns, rather than fashioning human-like designs.

As the use of playing cards drifted further in the Mediterranean, the royal rank of cards was formulated. Card makers devised ranks by the nobleman who visited the royal court. Sometime around the 1500’s, the French removed one of the noble ranks and replaced it with the Queen, creating the standard 52-card deck we now use today.

Other forms of gambling were introduced as the centuries wore on, including Roulette, which dates back as far as the late 1700’s according to Jaques Lablee novel “La Roulette, ou le Jour”. Lablees book describes a Roulette Wheel in Paris’s Palais Royal in 1796.

The history of gambling continues throughout time in the form of Bingo as a New York toy manufacturer by the name of Edwin S. Lowe discovered the game in a carnival tent outside of Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. However, in its earliest form as a lottery game, Bingo can actually be traced back as far as 1530 Italy. The game was called “Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia”, and is still played every week in Italy, making up a substantial portion of government funds.

Horse racing dates back at least to the middle ages, but probably aligns with about the same time horses became domesticated for riding by humans. Horse Racing in North America began in 1665 with the construction of the Newmarket race course in New York.

No matter what form of gambling, or the profit to be had, the rich history of gambling  is as diverse as the myriad colored lights found on today’s Las Vegas Strip.