Gambling in ancient times — how our ancestors entertained themselves?

Last Modified: 9th Sep

Ancient ruins (Source: pixabay)

Gambling is one of the oldest human recreational activities. Our ancestors had a good taste for gambling entertainment, with games being one of the most important factors in the development of civilization. Historians and archaeologists find evidence of the presence of games of our ancestors. Various objects that were used in the game are cited as evidence. Game artifacts are often found in tombs. Additional evidence for the existence of ancient entertainment has come from writings. In some of them, you can even learn the rules of a particular game of the ancestors. specialists are interested not only in the gambling games that we choose in online casinos today but also in the history of their origin. Below on this page, you will find a lot of interesting information about how the games of the ancestors appeared, how this industry developed, and what influence it had on civilization as a whole. Lots of amazing facts that you didn't even know about. It is very likely that you will change your attitude toward casino games after reading this analytical article. 

Gambling Gods

The ancestors did not treat gambling the same way we do today, they compared it to deities. Today, many gamblers understand that gambling is built on chance. Slot machines use a random number generator. Sitting at a card table, you always get a random set of cards. If luck is on your side, the more likely you are to win. Our ancestors had a very different attitude to randomness.

It was believed that by throwing sticks with marks on the ground, the gods determined their position. Of course, the first games of chance were not based on entertainment and were not used for the purpose of gaining power or money. The first gambling was a peculiar way of communicating with the deities. Every nation had its own gods and lived by worshipping them. Deities helped in solving any tasks and problems that our ancestors had.

Primitive dice, which were made mostly of wood or stones, were the most common accessory of the first games of chance. Dice were thrown to find out the opinion of the gods or predict the future. For example, such a game allowed us to determine the likelihood of rain in the near future or the favor of the gods for certain actions. In the Bible, you can find information that lots were cast in situations where it was necessary to divide the property. After Jesus was crucified, the guards cast lots to determine who would get his clothes.

Since gambling was a way to communicate with the gods, it played an important role in all aspects of our ancestors' lives. For example, in the first court system, the guilty party was chosen at random by rolling dice. By rolling primitive dice, it was possible to determine the guilty party of certain sins. Even if the perpetrator faced execution, everything depended on a fraction of chance. This reflects the importance of gambling to our ancestors in the best way possible.

Gambling regulation — how our ancestors did it?

Today, gambling entertainment is necessarily regulated by law. One country or a region may not impede at all the development and spread of gambling, while others try to prohibit it completely. As far as regulation is concerned, our ancestors were similar to what we see today in their actions. Gambling was regulated in such regions:

  • Ancient China;

  • Europe;

  • Ancient Egypt;

  • Ancient Rome;

  • Buddhists.

Every nation and region had its own attitude to gambling. Everyone agreed that it was not entertainment, but a way of communicating with the gods. That was why it was important that only the higher castes could talk to the gods, not the commoners. Gambling was curtailed by laws, and violations of these laws carried severe penalties. 

In some regions only certain people could roll the dice, they were called soothsayers. These people could act as judges, or be advisers next to the leaders. In other regions, there was a complete ban on gambling. For example, in Ancient Egypt, it was not allowed for common people to throw dice, and if they were spotted doing so, they were sent to quarries. In ancient Rome, it was also impossible to participate in gambling, for which there was a fine of 4 times the earnings of the offender. In Europe, there was contempt for gambling.

Gambling in Ancient China

For historians and researchers, Ancient China is famous not only for the invention of porcelain, gunpowder, and paper. Many agree with the opinion that it was in China that gambling, which has become the main modern entertainment, was born. For example, the ancient Chinese warriors, who had time to rest between battles, played board games. They created cards with special characters and played for money. Even the emperors did not neglect the opportunity to relax as a favorite pastime. We can distinguish these games, which were invented in China:  

  • Mazzian. Today, this game is known as mahjong. It used special cards with hieroglyphs, and up to 4 players could be seated at the table.     According to the artifacts found, we can say that this game existed     500 years BC. 

  • Fan Tian. Quite a simple game of ancient China, which was often found on the streets of cities. In the evening, people entertained themselves by making bets for money. The game used a small pot of clay, under which were placed coins, pebbles, and other gaming accessories. The dealer used a special stick to toss the coins to the side. Players bet money on how many coins remained on the table at the end.

  • Keno. This popular game today has its roots in ancient China. This lottery was invented so that the population would voluntarily pay taxes to the state treasury and thus allow the emperor to continue waging war. The participant made a bet and had the opportunity to win a lot of money, but the chances were not very high. 

Evidence of the existence of ancient gambling and what we have today

According to the facts that archaeologists give us, we can say that gambling was practiced by people even before our era. The history of gambling has always been controversial, historians differ in some points in their opinions. Nevertheless, there are undeniable facts that prove the existence of such games in a certain period of time.

“Gambling is more than a simple poker table or slot machine at an online casino. Gambling has always been with man; it has participated in shaping the society we see today. I've always been interested in delving into the history of gambling because that's where the truth is. — Rose Davis.”

Below are the facts that prove the existence of ancient gambling. The study was made by experts of, based on the available historical facts. Below is a chronology of the emergence and development of gambling in the ancient world and up to the present day.

Gambling before our era

Most historians agree that it was ancient China that provided the basis for the development of gambling. Found archaeologists unearthed playing tiles with hieroglyphs dating back to 2300 B. C. Also, evidence of the existence of such entertainment is preserved in the “Book of Songs,” which mentions playing with tiles made of wood with unique patterns. It is believed that these were the first lotteries, which were created not only for entertainment.

The main purpose of lotteries was to raise funds from the population for complex projects. There is speculation that the construction of the Great Wall of China was also financed by lotteries. This method of voluntary collection of money from the population was not only in Ancient China. For example, the famous Harvard University was built using lotteries.

The first dice, the ancestors of what we use today in modern land-based casinos, were also created in the B.C. era. There is evidence that the first dice were used in 3000 B.C. The writings of Sophocles, the ancient Greek poet, mention dice being used as entertainment during the siege of Troy. The Romans and Greeks showed a love of gambling. It was these nations that invented playing chips, which were then exchanged for real money. This was necessary to get around the rulers' ban on gambling. As soon as players were caught gambling, they would show the chips and say that they did not gamble with real money.

The period 0-1400 AD

Gambling had been around for a long time, but it was during this era that it began to actively develop. It is believed that during this period the first playing cards appeared, and they were found in China. They were different from the cards we see today, and the rules of the game, at this point, remain unknown. Playing cards in China appeared in the 9th century.

If you compare the ancient card games of chance with the modern ones, the most similar entertainment appeared in Italy. Around 1400 Italy was already playing baccarat. Italian baccarat was also popular in France, but the rules are different from those used today. It is believed that modern baccarat was invented in Cuba, after which it migrated to Britain and the United States. Today, baccarat is popular, with the rules remaining virtually unchanged. Canadian gamblers loved it because of the simple rules, fast gameplay, and high chances of winning. Baccarat can be found in both land-based and online casinos.

The period of 1600s

This period of gambling development is known for the fact that that's when the first mention of blackjack appeared. The modern variation of blackjack was created from the famous French game of vingt-et-un. The French, who were forced to move to the United States, brought the game, where it got its famous name. It wasn't until 1930 that Americans renamed the pastime blackjack and made the game one of the most famous in the world.

Importantly, it was in the 1600s that the first casinos began to appear, which became the basis of those very modern gambling establishments. The first casino appeared in Italy, it was opened in Venice so that players could have fun during the festival period. This is an important period for the gambling industry as a whole. After the appearance of the first casino in Venice that illegal and legal gambling houses began to open.

The period of the 1700s

An extremely important period in the history of gambling. That's when the first roulette appeared, which today is one of the most popular gambling entertainments in the world. The first mention of roulette was found in Paris, France. Double zero roulette appeared in bookmaker offices. Nevertheless, this entertainment became popular only after the roulette wheel was installed in the casino in Monte Carlo. Fifty years after its introduction, the European version of the roulette wheel was invented, which already had only one zero sector.

Following these facts, we can say that the famous American Roulette, which is popular in Canada, didn't come from America. It appeared in France; nevertheless, American gamblers refused to accept the updated version of the game of chance, preferring the original version. There are several major differences between European and American roulette:    

  • A number of sectors. American roulette has 38 sectors on the wheel, while European roulette has 37.

  • Sector zero. American roulette has two sectors 0 and 00, and European roulette has only one 0.

  • The odds of winning. Winning American Roulette is more difficult than winning European Roulette.

The period of 1800s

Gambling was already popular in the world. Land-based casinos offered their visitors a lot of interesting entertainment. In the 1800s, the first mention of poker appeared. In fact, historians doubt when the modern version of the game of poker was invented. It is generally accepted that the actor Joseph Crowell from England, claimed to have seen poker in New Orleans, and it was in 1829. This is mostly accepted as the date of poker's founding, but there is no other evidence.

For a long time, poker was not the most popular game among casino-goers. The rules were quite complicated, the card combinations are many, and the chances of winning were not the highest. Nevertheless, after the first poker tournament was held in 1970, the game attracted much attention. The development was so intense that poker soon became one of the most popular card games in the world. This is the game it remains today.

The period of the 1800s is also known for the fact that this is when the first slot machines began to appear. Sittman and Pitt created their first game that resembled the modern slot and introduced it to New York players. At the same time, Charles Fey created Liberty Bell, a slot clearly inspired by modern slot machine developers. Gamblers today may notice that many slot machines use bells as symbols, just as in the original Liberty Bell.

An important factor is that Charles Fey did not patent his invention. This opened the door for many developers who simply created similar games for different establishments. Most of the first slot machines were not installed in casinos, but in bars where visitors could be entertained. Initially, slots gave out money as a prize, but then it became illegal. Bars and restaurants began to give out drinks, chips, and other snacks as rewards.

The period of the 1900s and modern gambling

The gambling industry began to actively develop, and the first video slots appeared. The first video slot was created in the 1970s, followed by other similar games. The main change in the gambling industry was the appearance of online casinos. It was a breakthrough in the 90s that gave rise to modern gambling entertainment, the kind we see today in Canadian online casinos. Today, slot machines, card games, and roulette are very popular among gamblers.

3. Online slot machines

Online slots are special software that is developed by licensed providers. Slots often form the main game catalog of online casinos, they are the ones represented by thousands of titles. The basic principle of the game always remains the same, you need to spin the reels and form combinations of several identical symbols. Slots may have a different number of reels, rows of symbols, pay lines, and a unique set of bonus features.

Today, more than 100 different providers create original slot machines and supply them to online casinos. Some legendary slots have made dozens of people dollar millionaires, such as Mega Moolah from Games Global. This slot machine has produced the largest number of jackpots in history. A jackpot of over 22,000,000 pounds made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Other providers include such popular slot machines:  

  • Pragmatic Play (Buffalo King Megaways, Wolf Gold, Mustang Gold, Da Vinci's     Treasure, Sweet Bonanza);

  • Play'n GO (Book of Dead, Dragon Maiden, Sizzling spins, Legacy of Dead, Cats, and cash);

  • Microgaming (Immortal Romance, Game of Thrones Power Stacks, Terminator 2, 9   Masks of Fire);

  • NetEnt (Gonzo's Quest, Starburst, Wild Wild West, Guns'n'Roses, Jack and the Beanstalk).    

  • Playson (Clover Riches, Solar King, Imperial Fruits, Wild Warriors).

At online casinos in Canada, gamblers can find many other slots from equally reliable developers. The choice is really very large.

2. Online card games

Popular gambling entertainment among Canadian gamblers. If previously it was necessary to visit a land-based casino gaming room to play cards, today you can do everything at home. Developers create software that allows you to play the most popular card games on your PC, laptop, and mobile device. Original rules, high-quality graphics, big payouts—all this attracts the attention of gamblers. For those looking for companionship, there are card games with a live dealer. Canadian players most often choose such entertainment in online casinos:    

  • Blackjack;

  • Video poker;

  • Baccarat.

All games can be presented in several varieties. For example, newcomers to online casinos, most often choose Draw Poker. This is a classic game with the simplest rules, high chances of winning, and fast gameplay.

1. Roulette online

A classic gambling game that can be found in almost every online casino in Canada. Modern roulette is based on the work of a random number generator. The player just needs to choose his bet, and then wait for the roulette wheel to stop. If you do not trust the random number generator, you can play live poker. In this case, the gambler is connected to a live broadcast from a special studio, where the dealer rotates real roulette. Players from Canada can play all types of roulette: American, European, and French. 

Casino roulette for real money has undergone many changes but has remained as much in demand, even in online games. Online casino roulette with a live dealer was the next round of development after the standard versions appeared. 

"Residents of Canada can play poker, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, and other types of games with live people from a convenient location of their choice through a live casino. The gambling site broadcasts the game with a live dealer who runs the game, takes bets, deals cards, announces winners, and other functions," says casino expert web portal, Robert Lewis.

This was expected by many players who missed the atmosphere of the gambling establishment because the game is not only winning and losing but also a pleasant pastime, which depends strongly on the atmosphere created. Best casino online sites offer all possible types of gambling you can always decide what is more exciting for you.


History has shown that gambling was popular even before our era. The ancestors liked to rely on luck and did it every time they had the opportunity. Initially, gambling was a way of communicating with the deities, but it gradually became a popular pastime. Some states began to use gambling to get their populations to voluntarily pay taxes, thereby sponsoring large-scale projects. One thing is for sure, ancient gambling became the mainstay of what we see today. Online entertainment has taken betting to a whole new level, and this is the direction the industry will take.

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