Welcome to casino-de-saxon.ch, my personal website offering an insight into the history of casinos and gambling from around the world from the Saxons to the modern day.
If we view gambling as a concept that simply involves taking a risk in order to potentially win a reward, gambling as a human behavior can be traced all the way back to prehistoric times. For as long as man has walked the Earth, there has always been gambling taking place!
Of course, this website doesn’t provide an academic thesis-style analysis of the anthropology of Homo sapiens and the concept of ‘taking risks’. Instead, I intend to look at the history of gambling where money is involved – specifically through playing games – which has led me to focus on its more recent history, from the early days of the Saxons through to present day land-based casinos, online casinos and e-sports betting.
Evidence in the form of archeological discoveries, literary reviews and in-depth historical studies has long-proven that gambling games have been existence for thousands of years. For example, gaming ‘tiles’ have been found in China dating back to 2,300 BC, while dice made from ivory have been dug up in Egypt dating back to 1,500 BC. While this kind of gaming equipment could well have been used just to pass the time (without risking money), other, more detailed evidence from early times proves that people loved to gamble just like they do today. For instance, gambling paraphernalia from the Romans as well as written texts from the same era describe board games and other competitive events being played where money exchanged hands. Such documents even detail wealthy Romans fighting over gaming disputes and amounting large debts (so, not too much has changed up until the present day then…)
Saxons and Gambling
The Anglo Saxons who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th – 10th centuries and who were mostly comprised Germanic descendants are another people in history who were known to enjoy gambling.
In fact, recent archeological findings have shed new light on how the Anglo Saxons played and even developed many basic forms of gambling games.
For example, in Kent, the United Kingdom, a lone piece from what is believed to have been a backgammon set was recently discovered, which experts have dated back as far as the 7th century. More worn-down, basic items chiseled away from bone or wood have been discovered, but this was the first of its type (from the Saxons) to be found in such good condition – with clear markings that indicate it would have been as part of a game of chance, rather than used for any other purposes.
As well as backgammon, historians have long-understood that the Saxons were avid players of other gambling games including ‘tabula’ and others with ‘matching’ concepts similar to poker today. Many human Saxon remains have been uncovered, normally of wealthy men, who have had gambling items buried with them, such as dice.
Key events in gambling history
As well as the Egyptians, Romans and Saxons, groups of people from all over the world have played their part in the evolution of gambling, from thousands of years before the birth of Christ up until the present day. Thanks to better and easier ways of recording significant historic events, much of what we know and understand about different gambling behavior and games has occurred in the latter half of the second millennium.
Below is a brief timeline of some of the milestones in the history of gambling:
3,000 BC – at this time, we know that forms of ‘dice’ were in existence in ancient Egypt after several discoveries inside various mummies’ tombs; however, what these pairs of dice were used for still remains a mystery
2,300 BC – earliest evidence of any form of gambling dates back over 2,000 years before the birth of Christ, with crude Ancient Chinese titles unearthed that historians have linked to an elementary game of chance
500 BC – it was around this time that gambling really became popular in Ancient Greece and with the Romans. Thanks to a combination of artifacts and literary documents, historians believe that wealthy figures amongst society played organized games in venues built specifically for games of chance – in a sense – forming the world’s first ever casinos. In fact, in Rome, gambling became so commonplace that authorities actually banned it and imposed fines on those who took part.
800-900 AD – the advent of playing cards in China. Clear evidence shows that the Chinese were the first to use cards with different symbols for fun. However, whether money was changed hands in these games is a different matter. And, you can bet these cards didn’t have the same Jack, Queen, King and Ace symbols as we know of today.
17th Century – first illegal casinos started to appear in Italy, coinciding with the advent of the earliest forms of ‘blackjack’ in France.
1796 – the advent of the roulette wheel in France
1891 – the ‘one-armed bandit’ slot machine was invented in America by Messrs Sittman and Pitt, which was used for low-stakes games (mostly played for fun) in local bars and saloons using a system of 52 cards that would mechanically revolve inside the machine.
1910 – present – mass development of casinos throughout America and eventually all over the world, particularly in the last thirty years with mega casinos in Las Vegas
1994 – Microgaming launch the first ever online casino, followed 10 years later by the first ever ‘live dealer’ casino game and then the influx of mobile online casinos over the last few years until today.
From this final point in the timeline of gambling, we can see that the most significant shift in gambling behavior today (both in terms of us as users/customers and the manufactures of these games) is the move from playing online casino games on desktop PCs to playing the same kinds of games on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
Not so long ago, playing these kinds of games via your mobile was awkward and often annoying; the screen was too small, the in-browser navigation was tricky (you’d always accidentally click on the wrong button) and the connectivity was slow and unstable.
Today, most of these issues have been solved, allowing for the mobile casino gaming market to open up and expand into a multi-billion dollar industry. All the latest mobile manufactures provide quick, easy and convenient fun for people on-the-go. We’ve come a long way since ancient Chinese cards and bone-made backgammon pieces from the Saxons!