Most articles like to indicate that gambling can be traced as far back as the 14th century in Japan. However, we would like to think humans have been gambling in some form or the other back since early man existed. It seems common sense to know wagering and survival have always worked parallel to each other. As far back as competition has existed, betting and gambling have done too, the difference being the rules, stake and technology have changed.
When it comes to understanding the history of gambling or casinos, Italy was the first country to introduce them, back in 1638 and it was known as The Ridotto. The Ridotto was based in Venice and offered a controlled environment for those that wished to gamble.
Gambling Being Culturally Rooted
Of course, since then, we have and continue to see a wave of casinos, both land-based and online, emerge across the World, although the legalities of gambling vary from country to country. Card games such as Poker or Rummy remain the most popular among social groups even in countries where gambling is banned.
In some cultures, gambling is a very social activity that is deep rooted into the traditions. A good example would be games such as Mahjong also known as ‘mj’ in China.
Mahjong which translates into ‘Sparrow’, is a 2,500-year-old tile game that originated in China. Most of the game enthusiasts link the game back to Confucius and his love of birds. But the oldest historical record ever found is dates to the 1880s.
Researchers say that the game originated in the late 19th century in the provinces of Kiangsu, Anhwei and Chekiang (near Shanghai) and link the traditional rules of Mahjong to the popular game Mah-tiae (“Hanging Horse”) as the game uses a similar tile set.
Earliest recorded games
The earliest recorded game still played in casinos today is the two-player card game of Baccarat, a version of which was first mentioned as long ago as the 1400s when it migrated from Italy to France.
Dice games have been reported to go back to 3000bc when a pair were discovered in an Egyptian tomb, when a Greek poet, Sophocies referenced them in his book in 500bc. Since then the Ancient Greeks and Romans have recordings of dice games taking place, although this was illegal and those taking part would receive severe punishments.
Other Popular Games
Even popular games such as blackjack may have originated back to the 15th century, but no-one really knows whether it was first introduced by the Spanish or the French. The name ‘blackjack’ was an American innovation and linked to special promotions in Nevada casinos in the 1930s. To attract extra customers, 10 to 1 odds were paid out if the player won with a black Jack of Clubs or Spades together with an Ace of Spades.
Another popular game that has stood the test of time but cannot be pinpointed to an exact date to when it started is Poker. Some have poker’s origins coming from seventeenth century Persia, while others say that the game, we know today was inspired by a French game called Poque. What we do know for sure is that an English actor by the name of Joseph Crowell reported that a recognizable form of the game was being played in New Orleans in 1829, so that is as good a date as any for the birth of poker.
The Birth of Slot Games
One of the most popular forms of gambling is of course Slot Games. With the first slot machine invented in 1887 by California based Charles Fey.
Although most believe that Charles completed the first slot machine in 1895 this was because the first slot machine was much simpler. It consisted of three spinning reels containing a total of five symbols, Horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts, and a bell (Liberty Bell), from which this machine took its name. By replacing ten cards with five symbols with three reels instead of five drums, the complexity of reading a winning result was significantly reduced, allowing Fey to develop an effective mechanism of automatic payment. Three bells in a row produced the biggest reward.
in 1907, manufacturer Mills from Chicago produced a slot machine known as the Operator Bell. A year later many “Bell” machines were installed in most cigar stores, saloons, bowling, brothels, and barber shops. The original Liberty Bell machine can still be seen at the Liberty Belle Saloon & Restaurant in Nevada.
First Electronic Video Slots
The first true electronic slot (video slot) was developed in 1976 by N. Cerracchio, R. Greene, W. Beckman, J. Reukes, and L. Black in the company Fortune Coin Co., Las Vegas, NV. This slot machine used a modified 19-inch colour screen of the Sony boards and software for all machine functions. The original machine was incorporated in a cabin – slot.
The first video slot machine was placed at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas and after some security modifications against cheating of the machine; it got approval from the state of Nevada.
The first electronic slot machine with two screens was created in 1994 in Australia followed by America in 1996. In this type of machine, the display on the screen changed, giving the player a different environment, in which they could claim a bonus.
Slots Today is Big Business
In Britain today they are over 179,000 registered electronic slot machines in operation, responsible for approximately £2.8 billion in GGY, whilst online slots alone saw around £2 billion a year between 2017-2018.
At present day, Slots have come a very long way, particularly online slots, both in terms of variation and technology. Although slot machines found in establishments such as bars and arcades continue to still be a favourite among visitors, online slots are still the primary favourite by slot lovers due to the ease of access, game variation as well as the welcome bonus offer.
The Statista data analysis for online gambling indicates the number of new online gambling registrations in Great Britain from April 2008 to March 2019, peaked to approximately 30.99 million users, this of course excludes all other gambling registrations across the Globe where gambling is legal.
Over the past 6 years, online player gambling accounts held in wallets account for £828 million worth of holdings. Again, it should be noted this figure is for the UK only and includes all gambling products.