The Origins of Gambling

The origins of gambling are as complicated as the practice itself. Gambling can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, who frequently played games of chance for fun. The practice made its way to the modern world through the efforts of the English, who legalized gambling in 1666. Since then, gambling has thrived in countries like Great Britain and America, although many countries still ban the practice. Today, online casinos and gambling websites allow anyone to play almost anytime and anywhere, expanding the industry globally.

Greeks First, Then Romans

Ancient Greek philosophers, like Aristotle and Plato, talked about luck and fortune in relation to games of chance. However, it was the Romans who actually practiced gambling. After conquering much of Europe, the Romans brought their love of gaming and gambling with them. They used their coins to gamble in tournaments and created their own versions of many classic games, like Backgammon and Punto Banco.

Over time, the Romans and the Greeks developed distinct views on the matter. For the Romans, gambling was more of a fun activity done for entertainment purposes. For the Greeks, gambling had a spiritual side: getting a lucky draw was seen as an ode to the gods. Although the Romans outlawed gambling, they never truly succeeded in suppressing it. Gambling remained a popular pastime for the wealthy throughout much of history.

Then…The Spread Of Gambling

During the early part of the 17th century, a gambling epidemic gripped England. Gamblers would travel from town to town, winning or losing large sums of money. One of the main reasons for this problem was that gambling was treated as a fun activity in England at the time, with no real harm associated with it. It was not until the 18th century that the English started to see gambling as a real problem. Several moralists and reformers published writings condemning the practice, calling it a sin and a vice.

Although England banned gambling in 1761, it did not end the practice altogether. A loophole in the law that allowed betting on horse racing and other forms of gambling persisted until the early 19th century.

The French Revolution And The Rise Of Poker

The French Revolution changed the perception of gambling in two ways. First, it ended the tolerance that the English had shown towards the practice. Second, it inspired a new generation of gamblers, who sought for more sophisticated games and better odds. These two factors combined led to the rise of poker in Europe. Until that point in history, most people played more simple card games, like Blackjack and Spanish 21, which is reminiscent of the types of games played during the French Revolution.

Poker And The French Connection

Poker evolved as a game during the French Revolution, with players using their hands to hold cards and indicate the strength of their hand. Since then, poker has existed in one form or another, traveling the world and becoming popular in countries like France and Great Britain. It is rumoured that the name ‘poker’ is derived from the French playwright and satirist, Antoine-Francois Rosette, who popularized the game during the French Revolution. The German game of ‘Crown’ also dates back to the period, although it is unclear if Rosette had any connection to that game as well.

Gambling Around The World

Although gambling is a social vice in much of Europe, it has found a home in other parts of the world as well. Today, gambling is popular in much of the Americas (especially in the US), as well as in South Africa and parts of Asia. In some countries, like Argentina and Brazil, the practice is legal and seen as a means of socializing children, especially rich children who can afford to lose money. In other parts of the world, such as Egypt and parts of Africa, the practice of gambling is seen as a spiritual quest, with many seeing it as a way to solve poverty. Gambling is not seen as a problem but as a way of life for many in these parts of the world.

The Impact Of Modern Technology On Gambling

Modern technology has had a profound impact on gambling, both positively and negatively. On the one hand, technology has allowed for the creation of new forms of gambling, like online casinos, which feature highly innovative games that you cannot find at traditional brick and mortar casinos. On the other hand, it has greatly increased the accessibility of gambling, with the ability to play on the move and online. Although mobile casinos have made it possible to play virtually anywhere, this has also opened the door for online gambling addiction, especially as more people are using their smartphones to access gambling websites. Gambling is no longer just a pastime for the wealthy, as anyone can become addicted to gambling, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that 0.7% of the world’s population is affected by an addiction to some form of gambling. It is a serious issue that has gotten a lot of attention recently.

The Spread Of Gambling In Popular Culture

The literary and cultural influences of the French Revolution still linger in modern culture. You can find books like Émile Zola’s 1898 novel, ‘Nana,’ which follows the adventures of a young and beautiful courtesan named Nana, who is addicted to gambling. Nana was a major influence on the English art critic, Roger Ferry, who in turn inspired a generation of artists, including Émile Zola’s own son, Jacques. Through Jacques’s works, you can once again see the influences of the French Revolution in modern culture, with the artists’ frequent use of the liberty, equality, and fraternity slogans.

It is also important to note that both ‘Nana’ and ‘1900,’ Émile Zola’s 1899 novel which is set in a Parisian casino, are banned in many countries. That is because they contain strong language, which hints at the scandalous nature of the Parisian elite. Although the novels are considered important pieces of French literature, modern-day readers outside of France cannot legally read them because of their frank depictions of life during that period. With the invention of the printing press, books became much more accessible to a wider audience. This, in turn, led to a greater awareness of cultural and historical influences and a greater interest in exploring a work of fiction for its deeper meanings. In a similar vein, James Joyce’s 1922 novel, ‘Ulysses,’ is often cited as one of the first examples of ‘cunning,’ with the very name ‘Ulysses’ evoking the legendary Greek king, whose name itself is a pun relating both to his cunning and his island home. Interestingly, ‘cunning’ is also the word used by modern-day practitioners of the ‘hedge’ betting strategy, which makes it one of the most significant texts in the history of gambling.

Gambling And Society

From the early days of gaming, gambling has been closely tied to society and the roles that people play within it. The English poet and essayist, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for example, saw gaming as a metaphor for life, with the gambling industry often criticized for being a place that enables people to escape the harsher realities of the world. Coleridge, who was himself a prolific gambler, felt that gambling helped him to hone his mental skills and stay focused on more positive thoughts. According to the poet, “Gaming enables me to combine the excitement of competition with the serenity of contemplation. Thus I improve my mind, while my luck maintains itself.”

The relationship between gambling and society was also explored by the English writer, George Bernard Shaw, in his 1908 work, ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma.’ In it, Shaw describes a character named, Dr. Kenyon, who he claims is a combination of doctors, dentists, and pharmacists, whom he meets at a British gambling club. Although Dr. Kenyon is a brilliant medic, Shaw claims that his real expertise lies in manipulating people. In one of the scenes, Dr. Kenyon discusses with the club members the role that gambling plays in society, describing it as a “subtle poison” which affects the minds of people and makes them crave excitement and thrills. In the end, it is the members of the club who decide to keep the good doctor and allow him to start his practice in the town. Despite the fact that Shaw’s novel was not intended as a ringing endorsement of gambling, it is still often cited as a pro-gambling text, with many seeing it as an early example of pro-gaming rhetoric.