Attempting to find the true, absolute origins of gambling is an act in futility. There is evidence of gambling going back many centuries, with traces of games of chance as far back as 300 BCE. But when we’re talking about modern gambling, what we recognise today as casino games, the origins are much clearer.
First and foremost, it should be noted that even as long ago as ancient Egypt gambling for money was strictly regulated. Evidence exists that in ancient Egyptian culture illegal gamblers could be sentenced to hard labour in the quarries, showing just how serious culture has always been about keeping an eye on gambling.
As far as the act of gambling itself is concerned the roots of the practice are linked to divination.
What Is Divination?
Today it isn’t uncommon to use tarot cards or horoscopes for divination. Which is to say, although some take these practices more seriously than others, divination isn’t as common today as it once was. In older times divination was considered a valid way to get insights into the unknown, with the most common method being the casting of lots.
Lot casting involved throwing a set of marked sticks on the ground, with a divinatory reading taken of how the stick arrangement landed up. Anyone that sought knowledge of the future, or wanted insight into what the gods intended, would cast lots. There are many well-known examples of lot casting in the Bible, with it often being mentioned in the book that lots were cast to assist with the making of an important decisions.
Over time the marked sticks were replaced by dice, and dice rolls were used for a similar purpose.
From Lots To Gambling
It is widely believed that the practice of casting lots stepped over into various forms of gambling. Simply put, bets began to be placed on the rolls of the dice, ushering in the idea that lot casting could be as entertaining as it was informative.
Divination itself gradually turned into a separate practice, though in many cultures still retained some of its earlier characteristics. Gambling, meanwhile, expanded into an entertainment industry of its own. As is well known Craps still uses dice to this day; an absolutely fascinating notion considering that dice were used by ancient cultures centuries ago.
Standardisation And Adoption
In ancient Rome and China regulations came down hard on gambling. Cultures recognised that unregulated gambling was a problem, hence it wasn’t until the 17th century that legalised gambling become a major industry. Governments realised that regulated, legalised gambling could not only provide entertainment, but could also be used for a steady supply of useful income tax.
In the 18th century regulated sports betting also became popular, once again ushering a new era of legal gambling.
From Humble Beginnings
It is, of course, still hotly debated as to where the idea of gambling itself originated. But that question is almost certainly impossible to answer, given that cave dwelling ancestors likely accepted the idea of online pokies NZ long before anyone was able to even keep a record.