The history of gambling

casinoWe talk a lot about gambling, about casino games, and risking it all in the hope of winning your fortune.

But when did we start gambling? Why do we gamble? Who invented gambling?

In this article we take a look back at where it all began and start to think about where it might take us in the future.

The origins

The evidence suggests that gambling is one of mankind’s oldest activities. References to its popularity and its regulation can be found in the laws of ancient Egypt, China and Rome, as well as the ancient texts of the Jewish Talmud, Islam, and Buddhism.

Organised gambling that begins to resemble the casinos that we know today seems to have emerged in the 15th century with the introduction of lotteries in Europe. There is a suggestion that similar lotteries were already being run in China several centuries earlier. Gambling houses became a permanent feature of many European cities in the 17th century.

Most of the casino games that we know and play today can be traced back to either Europe or China. The main European games that you will be familiar with are craps, baccarat, roulette, and blackjack; whereas the Asian games that you will be familiar with are keno, pai gow poker, and poker.

A religious perspective

Like most things in life, the religious views on gambling vary greatly depending on which religion you follow and how you interpret their teachings. For example, if you take Hinduism for example you can find documentation regarding the popularity of gambling in ancient times, but also texts that advocate the taxation and control of gambling. Ancient Jewish authorities took a dim view of gambling, particularly anyone who could be considered a professional gambler. However when you look at the Catholic Church, their official position is that there is no moral impediment to gambling – as long as it is fair for all players and there is no fraud involved. Whereas a number of Islamic nations have a blanket prohibition on all forms of gambling.

However there is a potential religious origin of gambling activities – by casting marked sticks and other objects and interpreting the outcome, man sought knowledge of the future or the intentions of the gods that they worshipped. It seems a short step to begin betting on the outcome of these divinatory throws.


Gambling has often been associated with negative social consequences, and it is for this reason that most jurisdictions around the world will have some regulation on gambling activities.

Regulation usually takes the form of control and licensing to ensure that the gambling activities are being conducted in a fair and transparent manner, but also taxation of gambling activities is an important component of state regulation.

So you can see that while our passion for gambling may be ancient, perhaps even an essential human trait, the form and organisation of gambling is an evolving field.

Where does the future of gambling lie? It really is anyone’s guess – once again we are in the hands of chance, we are in the hands of fate.


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