Casinos and gambling.

The Earliest Forms of Gambling in Ancient Civilizations


Gambling has been around for a long time. Many people fail to understand among the earliest and dominant forms of entertainment is gambling. Evidence is there to support that there were gambling activities in ancient civilizations. It turns out that the activity has been around for ages.

Information provided in the famous encyclopedia Britannica, is that gambling was severely curtailed and regulated in the laws of ancient China and Rome too. The uncurable gamblers from Egypt were subjected to forced labor. Gambling was also a point of interest to the ancient Greeks. Minoan civilization was first to introduce games that were much similar to the casino poker.

While today gambling serves as a hobby to some, back then it was an integral part of cultural and religious traditions.

Gambling in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt

When speaking of ancient civilizations, you have to mention Egypt and Mesopotamia. Scientific knowledge has it that humans decided to leave their nomadic lifestyles and settle in Mesopotamia. It is no wonder why the earliest evidences relating to gambling were discovered here.

Little is known on the gaming artifacts that were discovered here but it is believed that most of them involved betting on their outcome. Among the prominent gaming items discovered include a four-sided Astragali – also called knucklebones.

These artifacts were made of animal talus bones but were then recreated using other materials like metal, wood and stone. This was what was used as dices back then before the six-sided was created. The dice and knucklebones were also used by ancient Egyptians.

Before gambling these artefacts were used to make communications with the gods. Ancient Egyptians believed that when the die was thrown it would reveal answers to some specific questions.

A discovery made in 2012 proved that the ancient civilizations in Egypt also used a 20-sided die. It is not known what the purpose for this die was however. The Egyptians just like several other civilizations found great pleasure and value in gaming which made them start using dice in games. The dice was widely used more so in the earliest board game – Senet, which means “the game of passing.”

Historians however, have never come to terms with the rules of the game. The historians reconstructed the terms of the Royal Game of Ur which was a board game discovered in 1920s in the Royal Tombs of Ur. The game was also played in Egypt but using the name Asseb.

Gaming in Primitive China

All through China has been and is still the gambling capital as far as the Far East is concerned. Despite the banning of games of chances in China for extended periods, many gamblers have always seen the country as a mecca to bet on their money. Majority of historians even believe that gambling can be traced to have originated from Ancient China. This also supports the fact that most popular games in Asia originated from China.

Gambling has been in existence during the Xia dynasty’s reign which was in 1900-1600 B.C. Most nations however, were aware of the risks of gambling supposing it turned to be an obsession. That, therefore, ensured games of chances were put under stringent control or even banned like in Ancient China.

The ancient Chinese people never ceased playing even after it was banned and finally the country legalized the sport. It was only legalized as it would generate income for the country from the gamblers free will to play instead of additional taxes on citizens.

China’s entrenched gambling culture explains why several of the most famous games of chance started from there. These games include poker, keno, blackjack among others. China is also responsible for inventing playing cards.

Gambling in the Americas

Little information has been discovered in regards to gambling in ancient Americas. However, it is clear that the Americas engaged in dice games. Archeologist Barbara Voorhies uncovered an ancient scoreboard used for some dice games or something similar in 2010.

It had a series of holes and was punched on the floor. The artifact was dated 5,000 years old which is the oldest evidence of gambling activities to be found in the Americas. Among the oldest games is the Patolli game in Ancient Americas.

The game was similar to Ludo if you consider its gameplay and board design. However, game of Patolli required two players and the stakes were a bit higher. Every contestant had six markers and they would have to wager one item for each of the six markers. The bet could be placed on food, personal belongings, gold jewelry or precious stones.

Some players would even go to the extreme ends of betting their family, freedom or homes. The game involved as many rounds as possible until one victor emerged who would have won the bet. The game of Patolli only ended after one player had possessed all his opponents’ items and they still have their belongings with them. Gambling activities have been going on in America to date and the why America has some of Largest Casinos in the world and some of the best places to gamble are located in the US.


Gambling did not start just recently as many would have thought. It has just been transforming as time goes by but the truth is gambling has been around for centuries. Evidence to support these sentiments have been unearthed and documented. China seem to have played a bigger role in the gambling field for a long time now. China is one of most attractive gambling destination around the globe in the current days.    

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