Where does gambling come from? Who invented it?

Posted on February 10th, 2009

Have you ever wondered about the origin of gambling and games of chance? Who invented gambling? Games of chance are such a widespread phenomenon across all cultures and countries across the world, that not many people think about this fundamental question. Gambling just exists, and always has done, and that´s that. But it´s got a pretty interesting history…..

Going back to Greek Mythology, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon are said to have shared out the known Universe by playing dice. Look at the archeological evidence, and it seems that even our caveman ancestors were gamblers. Dice have been found that have been dated back to 40,000 years, and early scenes of games have been discovered on the walls of caves that suggest that we liked a flutter even then.

The Chinese, of course, have always been avid gamblers. Go back to 2300 B.C., and they were playing a game of chance using tiles, a precursor to Mah jong. The Greeks used to love dice games and gambling paraphanelia has been found in Egypt, Japan, India and Italy.

The Roman Empire was famously a hotbed of gambling. Caligula was perhaps the first famous High Roller – luckily (for him) as Emperor he was able to confiscate property to cover any gambling losses. King Henry VIII of England was another famous gambler- the list goes on.

The popularity of gambling exploded, though, in the New World. People were gambling with their livelihoods anyway, by heading west across the American continent, so it was in their genes, you could say.

Riverboats and frontier towns sprung up in the new states of America with legal and illegal gambling dens that made many a legend. And although things calmed down a bit after Prohibition which drove drinking and gambling underground, things didn’t stay that way for long.

In 1931, Nevada legalized gambling, and Las Vegas was born. Atlantic City followed in 1978 and the rest, as they say, is history.

So where does gambling come from? Why is it so pervasive? Well, some say, that it is merely a reflection of the world around us. Chance and probability are everywhere- they are the building blocks of who we are and the universe we live in, even down to the behaviour of sub atomic particles. Casino games are just a reflection of the physical world around us. We’re just looking in the mirror! That´s our theory, anyway, and chances are we are right but there is a probability that we could be completely wrong too…..

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