For the love of the bet: Gambling Facts That Have Shaped History

Gambling and its Historical Journey

Gambling and the game of playing the odds has mesmerized punters across the centuries. The historical journey of gaming and its evolution from ancient civilizations to modern times is enchanting. Throughout history and along with the advancement of technology, its user interface continually evolves. Yet most gamblers remain oblivious to its historical milestones and the interesting facts and mystique that surround it.

The evolution of gambling and the gambler throughout history

In ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, India and China, evidence of gaming and betting is present. Cave drawings show early man enjoying primitive games and early dice are indicative of early man’s gambling tool of choice. Early forms of playing cards reveal how early gamblers came to form gaming circles. With regards to gaming and the art of betting, ancient literature from Greek Mythology to Buddhist texts to the Jewish Talmud cite passages that relate to gambling. Gambling and its historical facts are awe-inspiring to punters who possess a deep appreciation for the love of the bet.



  • In Mesopotamia circa 1300 BC, the earliest form of six-sided dice introduced itself to the pages of history. The act of dice-throwing appears collectively, in one way or another, all around the world. The oldest known dice date back to a game played 8,000 years ago.
  • Ankle bones of sheep and oxen inspired modern dice. With regards to these bones, the Greeks called them astragali. To illustrate, these roughly shaped cubed bones had two rounded sides that couldn’t be landed on, and yet four flat ones that could. 
  • Religious shamans are in fact, the first dice throwers in history. Using astragali which included sticks, rocks, or even animal entrails, they performed divinations. By throwing the dice, shamans foretold the future by ‘interpreting signs from the gods.’
  • Dice first appeared in board games in a city in southern Mesopotamia. Referred to as the “Royal Game of Ur,” this is the earliest version of backgammon using four-sided, pyramidal dice. 
  • However, the most common dice, the six-sided cubic hexahedrons, first appeared in Mesopotamia circa 1300 BC.

  • Speaking about ‘interpreting signs from the Gods,’ the roots of early forms of playing cards were also used for divination rites.
  •  “Fighting arrows” were Korean playing cards made of oiled paper and silk from the sixth century.
  • Playing Cards are thought to have come from China and then to have made their way to India and Persia. From Persia they spread to Egypt and from there, they made it into both the Italian and Iberian peninsulas during the second half of the 14th century.
  • The earliest playing cards were very expensive to own. In addition, wealthy merchants were among the select elite that could afford them. Each card came illustrated with hand painted works of art.
  • By the 15th century, card games became more popular than dice.
  • Designs of European cards seem to imitate 14th century Egyptian cards. Another theory of the origins of cards was that they arrived in Europe from trade with Egypt. 
  • Some have referred to the speed at which cards traveled throughout Europe as the ‘Invasion of Playing Cards.’
  • George Washington and Benjamin Franklin got into printing and selling playing cards. Near the start of the American Revolution, almost every household had at least one deck of playing cards.


  • In 2300 BCE Emperor Yao of China invented a game in which spectators bet on the outcome played by two opponents.
  • In 1500 BCE in India, punters bet on herds of cattle in chariot racing.
  • Chariot racing was perhaps the most popular ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine sport. In Roman chariot racing, teams represented different financial backers. These financial backers would sometimes compete for the particularly skilled drivers. 
  • King James I, who ruled Newmarket from 1567 to 1625, established it as the centre of organized horse races. Horse racing occurred regularly across open fields between two horses.
  • In 1665, the first horse racetrack in North America was built on Long Island and in 1668, the first horse race in America took place.
  • The roots of sports betting is pedestrianism which is race-walking. In early 19th century England, race-walking went hand-in-hand with gambling. With regards to gambling and race-walking the Amateur Athletic Association organized in 1880. They aimed to help stop race fixing as well as other gambling techniques influencing the outcome of events.
  • In the 1920’s, baseball was the king of sports betting and during that time, the Golden Age of Sports saw its greatest increase of sports betting up to date.

Gambling with the Lottery

  • The earliest lottery occurred in France in 1444. Punters paid for a chance to win 300 florins and the lottery effectively raised funds to repair the city’s walls and fortifications. 
  • In Bruges, Belgium in 1466, the first recorded lottery involving the buying of tickets and the distribution of prize money occurred raising money for the town’s poor.
  • In 1520, King Francis I of France legalized gambling in Lille, Paris, Lyons, Strasbourg and Bordeaux.
  • Queen Elizabeth I authorized the first state lottery in England where she reportedly gave away, for example: royal money, tapestries, and silverware. 400,000 tickets were sold and the top prize was worth US $17,500. The lottery raised money for repairs in several harbors.
  • Furthermore, lotteries dispersed unsold goods in Genoa and Venice in the mid 16th century. 
  • The first British royal lottery occurred in 1569 and it had a top prize of 1/12 of 5000 pounds Sterling.
  • In 1576, Duke Andrea Doria of Genoa invented a lottery to select new members of the ruling colleges. Rather than drawing names, each name corresponded to a number, and five numbers were drawn at random.
  • In other words, lotteries funded civic projects including the building and repair of colleges and universities. Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, and Columbia all owe the lottery thanks and praise for its fundraising efforts.


  • In 1638, Casino di Venezia, in Venice, opened during carnival season permitting organized and trouble-free gambling during the event.
  • In the early 1800s in America, casino gaming in roadhouses led to casinos.
  • New Orleans becomes the de facto gambling capital of the United States thanks to the river commerce of the Mississippi valley and the South’s relaxed attitude toward gambling.
  • Above all, riverboat gambling in the US flourishes between 1840 and 1860.
  • Anti-gambling legislation equally forces gambling underground.
  • In 1910, almost all gambling is illegal in United States except for horse racing which at the time was only available in three states. 
  • The Great Depression led to more relaxed attitudes about gambling and it was thought to have the capacity of stimulating the economy.
  • Bingo is decriminalized in 1931 to help churches and other charitable organizations raise funds. As a matter of fact, this trend continues until bingo is legalized in 11 states in the 1950s.
  • In 1931, the state of Nevada legalizes most forms of gambling. 
  • Tommy Hull built El Rancho Vegas in 1941, the first legal, land-based casino. In addition, he also foretold of an entire resort in the middle of the desert. What is more, those 66 acres eventually became known as the Las Vegas Strip.
  • It wasn’t until the late 18th and 19th centuries that the word “casino” happened. More importantly, casinos began booming on mainland Europe namely Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden in Germany. Extravagant casinos that looked like castles were erected for the gambling elite, for example, the Monte Carlo.


  • In 1994, the company Microgaming is formed. In addition, it claims to be the first to provide a fully functional real money online casino, The Gaming Club.
  • However, Microgaming bought out, which also arrived in 1994. serviced a small number of South African punters with online casino games until Microgaming bought them.
  • Intercasino, owned by a company Cryptologic arrives on the scene around the same time as Microgaming.  Both of these gaming companies play developmental roles in the evolution of casino technology as well as the online gambling experience.

  • Intertops accepts the first online sports bet on January 17, 1996.
  • on January 1, 1998 initiates a $3/$6 fixed limit hold’em game marking the birth of real money online poker.
  • Even though US sites were up and running, it took the UK until 1998 to come in with some betting sites of their own. Despite the delay, BetOnline, the first UK gambling site arrived on the scene and it’s now known today as BlueSquare.
  • In 1999, is among the first casino sites to accept credit card deposits. This evolutionary move was one that ultimately revolutionized gambling in particular, since punters now have the option to bet on credit without the need of real money.
  • Live casino games were introduced allowing punters the ability to watch live video streams of dealers and croupiers in real time.
  • Mobile gambling erupts and its accessibility on a tablet, computer and smartphone changed the face of gambling forever. In other words, a punter can not only play their favorite game, they can also win big from a mobile device wherever the internet is available.
  • Casinos provides the opportunity to choose the most suitable type of game grouped into three categories: slotsroulette and card games.