Gambling History

No one can tell you exactly how old gambling is.

These days, the word “gambling” is so intertwined with the casino, lottery, and sportsbook industries that we have to take a step back when we talk about it in a historical context. What do we mean when we use the word?

I define this word as the act of staking anything of value on an uncertain outcome in hopes of increasing your holdings.

To most of us, it means traveling to Las Vegas or Atlantic City and spending a weekend in a room with no windows or clocks sipping watery cocktails and playing Jacks or Better. For the purposes of this article, we’re using the broader definition above.

By that definition, we know that gambling has taken place since at least the beginning of recorded human history. What’s more, it usually took place in a form we would call “unorganized,” in that it didn’t happen in a legitimate gaming establishment.

Let’s look at historical references to the activity, the origins of it as an institutional and state-sanctioned practice, and the history of our favorite casino games.

Gambling is one of the oldest known pursuits of mankind. Archeological evidence suggests that even the earliest caveman was a gambler. Dice-like objects made from the ankle bone of a sheep or dog called Astragali dating back 40,000 years have been found. Cave drawings depicting gambling offer further proof of the existence of early gamblers. Pairs of dice have even turned up in the ruins of Pompeii, some of them "loaded" to fall a certain way.

Around 2300 B.C., the Chinese invented a game of chance using tiles, and 1100 years later Greek soldiers amused themselves with dice games, though in ancient Greece gambling was illegal. In Egypt, a pair of ivory dice were found in Thebes dating back to 1500 B.C., and ancient gambling artifacts have been unearthed in China, Japan, India and Rome.

In ancient Rome, Claudius redesigned his carriage so that he would have more room to throw dice, Caligula confiscated knights' property to cover his gambling debts, and Roman soldiers gambled for the robes of Christ after his crucifixion. At the height of the Roman Empire, lawmakers decreed that all children were to be taught to gamble and throw dice.

In the New World, Native Americans, believing that the gods themselves invented games of chance, played dice with plum stones painted white or black. In addition to wagering possessions, Native Americans also played to predict future harvests and in hopes of curing seriously ill tribal members.

Riverboats and frontier towns in the New World emerged providing new gambling venues, sometimes legal, sometimes not. And one risked much more than a few gold pieces when gambling in the frontier days. Card cheats and con men were often lynched, denoting the public's attitude toward professional gamblers, or ''sharpers'' as they were often known.

In the 1830's, refugee sharpers from the South moved to Cincinnati and opened the nation's first "Wolf-Traps" or "10 Percent Houses", named for of the house's cut of the action. Cincinnati also was the birthplace of the ''Horse-Hair game'', a method for cheating in cards by which a player, aided by an accomplice's distractions, manipulated cards and chips by use of a horse hair attached to a vest button.

After the Civil War, evangelical reform wiped out most of the lotteries. In the 1890's, the flagrant fraud of the nationally marketed Louisiana lottery led Congress to outlaw the remaining games, creating a public disdain for lotteries, and in 1910 Nevada made it a felony to operate a gambling game.

Responsible gaming

Responsible Gaming is a concept that gaming and gambling operators, software suppliers and associated service providers need to uphold to ensure their offerings uphold the highest standards to ensure a fair and safe gaming experience that protects players from the adverse consequences of gaming and gambling. The majority of gambling and gaming codes now require operators to ensure land-based and online gambling services are offered in a responsible manner.

Responsible gaming covers the areas of protecting vulnerable customers, the prevention of underage gambling, protection against fraudulent and criminal behavior, ensuring information privacy, ensuring prompt and accurate customer payments, delivering a fair gaming experience, upholding ethical and responsible marketing, commitment to customer satisfaction and ensuring a secure, safe and reliable operating environment. Operators refers to both land-based (e.g. casinos, betting shops) and online or remote operators.