Those of you who guessed that gambling originated before the invention of money are right. The first mentions of gambling are more than thousands of years old. Some archaeological research may even show that cave people have already bet. Cube-like objects have been found at various excavations, estimated to be more than 40,000 years old. Although, it is possible that, these objects were intended for others, such as ceremonial, purposes.
It is not yet clear whether the caveman was equipped with sufficient brain capacity to understand the meaning of the value of things and the element of chance. The fact is that the first documented gambling appeared in ancient China around 2,300 BC. The game resembled Keno, which has endured into the 21st century.
Made in China
What you can play on your mobile phone today was played in China using numbered cards from 1 to 80. Each player was allowed to circle a few numbers and then waited to see if one or more numbers won. Interestingly, even then, this gambling game could only be played in special buildings under the supervision of the governor of the area, who also received an appropriate reward for supervision.
In addition to Keno, the Chinese also gave the world cards. Around the year 900 AD, they invented another gambling game with cards depicting human figures. These cards were later spread around Europe, and the characters on them became the first forerunners of the kings and queens we see on the cards today.
Gambling in Ancient Rome
Although the first dice have already been discovered in Egyptian tombs more than 5,000 years old, the first confirmed mentions that they were used for gambling come from ancient Greece and Rome. According to surviving evidence, these civilizations loved gambling. At the time, there was even so much gambling that it was banned throughout the city of Rome. The perpetrators were threatened with a fine of up to four times the bet.
However, the resourceful Romans soon discovered how to bypass this system. That’s why they came up with the first casino chips and bet on them. Thus, the then patrol could not impose a fine on them, because they did not technically play for money.
However, the ancient Greeks and Romans did not only play dice. Animal fights, coin flips and, for example, the Checkers, which are played on a chessboard today, were also very popular. Everyone played, from slaves to burghers to top politicians.
For example, Emperor Claudius had his cart modified to make it easier to roll dice. His mad nephew Caligula then confiscated the knights’ property a few years later to cover his gambling debts. The fact that Roman soldiers were betting on the clothes of the just crucified Jesus Christ is also relatively well known. In the days of the greatest glory of the Roman Empire, it was even ordered by law for all children to learn to gamble and roll the dice.
People Will Always Gamble
Of course, China and the Greco-Roman Empire are not the only localities where evidence of gambling has been preserved. Remarks in all major religions such as Judaism, Islam or Buddhism are also mentioned. However, all cultures, religions or countries of the world have one thing in common with gambling. Gambling was somehow banned or controlled everywhere.
The illegality of gambling thus runs through history as gambling itself. However, the reasons for its restrictions are sometimes quite funny. For example, King Henry VIII of England banned gambling, even though he himself was an avid gambler after finding out that his soldiers would spend more time playing than training. This did not stop the gamblers in his country, because after his wife and her brother were tried for treason and incest, a 10-to-1 odds of acquittal was announced.