The History of the Casino

Discover the origins of casino gaming and all your favourite games below

History of Casino Games

Casino History and Culture

If there's one thing that's for certain it's that people love to play games. And if you're reading this page, chances are you're a fan of casino gaming. But where does this love for gambling come from?

In fact, no one knows exactly when we began playing the games of chance that developed into the casino games we know and love today. We know that in Ancient China games of numbers have always been popular, progressing into modern games like keno. And games involving dice were a part of Ancient Roman culture where it was referred to as casting lots.

The word casino itself stems from the Italian for "little house", but specifically refers to a place that has been built for leisure. These buildings would have been initially used for dancing and music, as well as gambling.

It's no surprise then that the first-known casino establishment dates back to 17th century Italy, where the Casino di Venezia first opened its doors in 1638 – a casino that's still operating today. And from there, modern casino gaming as we know it really took off.

Casino Gaming in Popular Culture

These days casino gaming has permeated popular culture, from cinema to technology and more. Films such as James Bond and Ocean's 11 have depicted some of the iconic games and the glamorous atmosphere found at many casinos, while The Hangover showed the decadent, hedonistic side of Las Vegas. 

TV shows have also been inspired by casino games, with contestants relying on the outcome of a spinning wheel in Wheel of Fortune, or gambling on the hidden contents of secret boxes in Deal or No Deal.

And if you have an iPhone, you might even notice the influence of slot machine design on some of the mechanisms, for example when setting an alarm.

History of Blackjack

Like many casino games, the precise origin of blackjack is unknown. However it is generally agreed that it began in French casinos in early 18th century with the game 'vingt-et-un', translating as twenty-one.

As 21 grew in popularity, the French colonists exported it to North America, where it gained popularity in the 1930s in Nevada. In order to draw more punters, a new rule was added in which a hand featuring either of the black jacks alongside the ace of spades would pay 10-1. Although that particular rule has since fallen out of fashion, the name stuck. And so blackjack was born.

Check out our page on the History of Blackjack for an in-depth look at the origin of the game.

History of Roulette

The most popular theory about the history of roulette is that it was invented by a French scientist, Blaise Pascal, in 1655. Pascal is said to have been bored whilst on a monastic retreat, developing the game to alleviate the tedium of monastery life.

There are said to be many forerunners to roulette as we know it today. The English games of Roly Poly, Ace of Hearts and Even-Odd, as well as the Italian Biribi and Hoca, may to varying degrees have influenced the modern game.

Even-Odd, in particular, appears to be a similar, if somewhat simplified version of roulette, where a ball spins on a wheel, landing in a pocket marked either even or odd. Instead of the zero pockets found on today's roulette wheels however, there was simply a portion allocated to the house.

For more information and fun facts about the History of Roulette, check out our dedicated page

History of Slots

Slot machines can be found by the dozen in almost every casino across the world. They dominate the land-based and online casino scene. But where did they begin? And how did they evolve into the incredible, high definition online slots we enjoy today?

There are two leading theories about the origin of the slot machine. The first is that American Charles Fey invented the original slot machine in 1887 – his Liberty Bell machine. This simple design had just three reels and five symbols, including the Liberty Bell, which gave it its name.

The other theory contests the date of Fey's creation, claiming that two men named Sittman and Pitt invented the first machine in 1891. This machine, based on five-card poker, used five spinning drums with 50 cards attached to them. When the drums stopped spinning, they'd display a five-card poker hand.

It's easy to see how both creations influenced the slots we play today. If you're interested, you can read more about the history and evolution of the slot machine on our History of Slots page.

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