Gambling in Ancient Times


Gambling in Ancient Times


Ancient-looking dice on a wooden table.

Gambling in Ancient Times


Ancient-looking dice on a wooden table.

While it’s as popular as ever, it’s safe to say that gambling isn’t a modern-day concept! In fact, most experts agree that it’s one of the oldest forms of entertainment, with its roots in many ancient civilizations around the globe.

Suppose you, like millions of others, enjoy playing online casino games. In that case, you might be interested in delving deeper into gambling history and exploring a handful of ancient games (yes, we’re talking about going further back than the history of bingo and the more modern games it spawned, like Slingo online) – many of which influenced some of the popular gambling games that we continue to play to this day. Here’s everything you need to know about gambling and its history.

The history of gambling in China

A man’s hand gestures to old-looking gold coins on a rustic wooden table.

When was gambling invented in China? Most industry experts agree that cards and card games as we know them originated in China sometime in the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty. The first card game is thought to have been the so-called “leaf game” played by Princess Tongchang with members of the Wei clan, as recorded by writer Su E’s Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang.

Keno is also believed to have its origins in China over 2,000 years ago where it was originally called “baige piao” which, translated into English, means “white pigeon ticket.”

Both card games and keno are highly sought-after in modern-day land-based and online casinos. Poker is definitely the most popular card game and casino table game in the world, and keno is quickly becoming a go-to among online players of all ages and backgrounds.

Nowadays, it’s possible to play various poker games and other card-based online casino games, as well as take part in live dealer poker tournaments where you can play against real people with a real dealer in real-time.

There are also plenty of keno games on offer, such as Ancient Thunder Keno – a classic keno game with a theme inspired by ancient Greek mythology. It features 80 numbers to choose from (you must select between two and 10) and a classic 20-number draw, with a total of 15 bonus spots (chosen at random and followed by the player’s selection.)

The history of gambling in America

Based on recent findings, it seems the origin of gambling in America goes as far back as the 13th century. Archaeologists recently discovered a cave in Utah full of gambling paraphernalia, leading them to conclude that it probably served as a bustling ancient casino. 

The most notable paraphernalia found included carved sticks which were likely used in a women’s-only gambling game created as a way of assigning various daily tasks, such as who would take care of the sewing that day, who would play with the children, who would cook, etc. The Native Americans would place their bets on how the sticks would land before tossing them and determining a winner. It’s presumed that the men got in on the action by placing bets on the outcomes of these exciting female-driven gambling sessions!

The history of gambling in Ancient Greece

Gambling was very much present in Ancient Greece, although it’s thought that there were contrasting opinions regarding the practice. It’s well-known that the majority of Greek philosophers frowned upon the act of gambling, but that didn’t seem to stop people from taking part! 

According to research, three of the most popular games back in the day were heads and tails, checkers (which was originally called “tilia”) and dice games.

Heads and tails was played similarly to how we approach it today, although it’s thought that the ancient Greeks used shells long before the game evolved to include coins.

The first version of checkers dates back to 1600 BCE and was highlighted by both Homer and Plato in their writings. The boards necessary to play the games were engraved into the floor.

The Greeks also played a role in the emergence of popular casino dice games, with evidence of these games popping up in ancient artworks, such as that of the image of Achilles and Ajax playing a game of dice under the walls of Troy – an image that appeared on various vases from ancient times.

Dice games are still extremely common among gamblers and include favorites like craps, Sic Bo, Klondike and Chuck-a-Luck.

The history of gambling in Ancient Egypt

There’s plenty of proof that gambling was a go-to in Ancient Egypt, including a diversity of gambling artifacts, like dice made out of elephant tusks and board games resembling checkers. 

There’s also evidence in the form of papyri dating back to times between 3000 and 4000 BCE. These papyri highlight laws created to prevent the spread of gambling, which is a surefire sign that it must have been a sought-after pastime among most residents. Gambling continued to evolve with the times with lotteries (which also have a deep and rich history) emerging in Egypt sometime during the 15th century.

The history of gambling in Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome had a complex and contradictory relationship with gambling, as highlighted by the work of Suzanne B. Faris in the journal article Changing Public Policy and the Evolution of Roman Civil and Criminal Law on Gambling. It may have been illegal to place wagers, but these laws were rarely enforced. It was also considered a vice, but many people took part in gambling on various types of activities, including games and sporting events. Even as new emperors came into power and added more laws preventing the practice, gambling was still an incredibly popular pastime.

The Romans enjoyed many different gambling activities including dice games, chariot races, gladiator matches and even board games. 

The history of gambling in Ancient India

While India may not be the first country you think of to have a long history with gambling, the practice is mentioned in two ancient Sanskrit epics. The first of these epics, the Ramayana, portrays gambling in a neutral tone, with references to gambling games involving dice and boards. The second Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, portrays gambling in a much more negative light. In fact, it tells a story of a compulsive gambler who lost everything, including his family, on a bet. This undoubtedly makes the tale a moral one that warns people of the dangers of excessive gambling.

The best casino games inspired by ancient times

Chinese game-inspired gambling paraphernalia on a wooden table.

Considering how far back games of chance go, it’s to be expected that many casino games of today celebrate their origins in these ancient gambling games. As such, it’s no wonder that themed casino games inspired by ancient times are so popular among gamblers! Here are a few top online slots choices to explore the next time you’re in the mood for a gambling session.

Age of Egypt is a fantastic online slot game with an Ancient Egypt theme. It’s a medium volatility game that features 5 reels, 20 paylines and a higher-than-average RTP (return to player) at 97.05%.

Ancient Fortunes Zeus is another title inspired by Greek mythology and is set on Mount Olympus. It’s a medium volatility game with stunning symbols that include Grecian gods, goddesses and mythical creatures, as well as an average RTP of 96.02%.

You’re sure to love China Mystery if you enjoy playing casino games with minimal risk. You’ll stand a chance to win up to 3,195,000 coins when playing this low volatility title, also boasting an average RTP of 96.1%.

Explore a diverse menu of online casino games at Borgata Online

Inspired by the ancient games mentioned above? Visit Borgata Online to explore a diverse menu of both player favorites and new releases, whether you’re in the mood for online slots, online poker, other casino table games, live dealer games, variety games and much more.

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