Gambling: The History And Rise Of An Industry

Gambling and betting have been around for thousands of years. It has transcended cultures and civilizations of the past which has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry in the modern era.

The earliest evidence of gambling dates back to ancient civilizations. Archaeological findings have evidenced gambling activities as far back as 3000 BC in Mesopotamia which was an area that encompassed modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, select parts of Syria and Turkey. The first aid used in early gambling which was uncovered is believed to be the six-sided dice made from materials like bone or clay.

Other artifacts that have been uncovered evidencing gambling activities are ancient texts like the Epic of Gilgamesh which makes references to gambling activity.

In a similar uncovering in Egypt, tomb paintings have also depicted gambling activities like games of chance using dice and other tools.

China has a long history of gambling too. Archaeological evidence points to the use of dominoes and tiles in games of chance dating back to the 9th century BC. The Chinese also invented the first iteration of playing cards in 1000 AD which later reached Europe via Egypt around the year 1360.

While the exact origins of gambling may be hard to come by, there is enough history and evidence to paint a picture of how gambling evolved over thousands of years into what it is today. Let’s take a trip through history and unveil the evolution of gambling through different civilizations and cultures:

Ancient Origins

Gambling activity can be traced back to many ancient civilizations. These include the Mesopotamians (3000 BC to 2000 BC), Egyptians (3000 BC to 2000 BC), Greeks (800 BC to 146 BC) and Romans (753 BC to 476 AD). All these civilizations took part in some form of gambling activity, from games of chance using dice, to more sophisticated games involving boards and of course, chariot racing where various rewards and prizes were given to winners.

Medieval Europe

During the Middle Ages in Europe, gambling continued to be popular despite the attempts of religious organizations to suppress the activity. Card and dice games were often played as well as early versions of roulette have been evidenced.

The Rise Of Casinos

During the 17th century in Venice, Italy, we began to see the early evolution of casinos as we know them today. The Ridotto was the first public gambling establishment formed in 1638. It provided the foundation for controlled gambling activities. The 18th and 19th centuries saw casinos become more widespread across Europe as they slowly grew in popularity.

Finding America

Early settlers in North America brought with them the concept of gambling. Lotteries were commonly found in colonies and were often used as a tool to raise funds for public projects.  The 19th century saw the frontier towns of the Midwest become popular for their saloons and gambling halls. Games that were commonly played here were poker and faro, a card game where players would bet on the order in which cards would appear.

Regulation And Prohibition

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were varying attitudes and regulations concerning gambling. While it was widely accepted in some parts of the United States, others implemented strict laws against the activity. Political movements such as the temperance movement and moralistic crusades saw the widespread prohibition of gambling across the United States.

The Modern Era

The mid-20th century was a significant turning point in the history of gambling as it earmarked major changes in the industry. Efforts in legalization led to the first casinos opening in Nevada in the early 1930s, in what is possibly the most famous of locations, Las Vegas. The post-World War 2 era saw the opening of many legal gambling establishments in the form of casinos, racetracks, and state lotteries.

The Rise Of Online Gambling


The late 20th Century saw a rapid change to the casino landscape with the development of the Internet. A global web that allowed us to share large swathes of information at record speed. Online casinos like Jackpot Wheel casino started to pop up along with sports betting sites and poker rooms with other formats of online gambling coming to the fore. These grew in popularity as they offered an unrivalled level of convenience to the consumer.

Native American Reserves: A Brief History

In the pre-Columbian Americas, various indigenous cultures engaged in gambling activities. These activities were often part of religious rituals, social ceremonies, and recreational activities. Gambling went beyond entertainment, it was culturally significant and was often used to settle disputes, as a means of social bonding and honoring spiritual beliefs.

The United States set aside land for Native Americans. These lands are known as Reserves or Reservations and are sovereign territories that are governed by tribal governments as opposed to state governments.

In the late 20th century, many Native American tribes began operating casinos on these reserves as a means of generating revenue and creating economic development. This was made possible by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988 which provided the legal framework for operating casinos on tribal lands.

Globalization And Regulation

In recent times, gambling has become a global industry crossing international borders through the World Wide Web. As technology has gone from strength to strength so has the industry of online gambling. The industry has grown globally to a mind-boggling estimate of hundreds of billions of dollars. Many countries have adopted regulations and legalized online gambling in an attempt to capture the tax revenue generated. These policies continue to be adapted and shaped based on socio-political elements.

Where Are We Heading?

Gambling has been a part of human and technological evolution for thousands of years. As we have evolved so has our technology and the industries that rely on it.

It is clear to see that within the last couple of hundred years, the industry has significantly changed and who knows where we will be in the next hundred. We are definitely on the trajectory of rapid evolution as we make technological advances that will continue to drive innovation within the gambling industry.