There are many theories as to when the first casino game was invented. Some claim casino classics stem from the Roman empire while others claim casino has its roots in ancient China.
No matter whom you choose to believe, one thing’s for sure – hazard games have been around for ages and gambling is nothing new to humankind. No matter what culture or continent you look at, you’re sure to find gambling practices dating hundreds, or even thousands, years back.
Most prehistoric games were played with dice or cards. And it’s probably safe to assume people bet on gladiator games and things of that nature long before football came around. As far as we can tell, gambling seems like something intrinsic to humankind.
Although the root of gambling can be debated endlessly, there are more concrete facts as far as modern casino history is concerned. For instance, we do know what the very first official casino, Il Ridotto, was established in Florence back in 1638.
The word casino itself is sprung from Italian and means “small house”. The term wasn’t coined until a decade later when the casino fashion reached France, where it was quickly picked up by the French aristocracy. From there, casino gems spread further north to countries like Germany and Great Britain. Eventually, the games sailed across the Atlantic and found a home on US soil.
France has played a significant part when it comes to casino games and casino history. For instance, it’s commonly believed that both Blackjack and Roulette were invented in French Casinos in the 17th and 18th centuries. Again, the exact origin of these games is up for debate, but there’s no question France had an instrumental part in spreading these games across the world and making them the casino classics we know today.
The slot machine is invented
European casino games quickly became popular on the other side of the Atlantic. And pretty soon, it would be the US that laid the foundation for the modern casino as we know it today.
In 1887, Charles Fey invented the very first slot machine in San Francisco. Fey called this invention The Liberty Bell, and the game soon became referred to as the “one-armed-bandit”. The machine had three reels with three symbols – a heart, a spade and a diamond. There was also a bell that was the machine’s cash symbol.
Fey’s Liberty Bell became immensely popular, and Fey struggled to keep up with the demand. That’s when arcade machine manufacturer, Herbert Mills, came into the picture. Mills saw a golden opportunity to invest and improve the Liberty Bell without disturbing the law.
At this point, gambling was illegal in the US. However, Mills found a workaround by swapping the card symbols for fruit symbols and paying out winnings in gum. He also changed the bell symbol for the BAR symbol, which has become just as synonymous with slots as the bell symbol. As you might’ve guessed, it’s because of Herbert Mills slots have become known as fruit machines.
Slots find a home at the casinos
To combat the 1929 Great Depression, several US states legalised certain forms of gambling. The idea was to help charities and churches collect money. And although casino games had been thriving illegally for decades, Nevada eventually legalised most forms of gambling to promote tourism.
Shortly after, slot machines found their way onto the casino floors where they became known as the cheap thrill. These games didn’t require any particular skill or knowledge, and thus quickly sparked a new wave of gambling. Pretty soon, slot machines became commonplace in casinos, pubs and taxi offices all across the country.
The first video slot is launched
A few decades later, the first video slot was rolled out. The old mechanical slot machines were swapped out for digital ones that had colourful displays and new features.
The introduction of video slots sparked a minor revolution in the industry, as game developers started competing fiercely. To stand out in an increasingly saturated market, developers began making games with multiple pay lines, bonus features and various exciting themes.
Online slots are born
A few decades later, slot manufacturers looked for ways to bring their slots closer to the consumer. Since the games were now created digitally, there was no longer a need for a physical machine.
In the early 90s, the first online slots started popping up on the market, sparking the biggest casino revolution we’ve seen in modern times. Game developers began to experiment with even more with themes and bonus features and even introduced more complex game narratives.
Over time, online slots became hugely popular, while table games still left quite a bit too be desired. However, that all changed when technology caught up and allowed for live streaming in HD-quality. Suddenly, we started seeing pristine live casino games that could replicate the real experience almost to a tee. At the same time, these games offered some clear advantages as far as themes, seats and game selection were concerned. Since online gambling has become legal in many states such as Virginia and New Jersey. Many casinos such as Bet365 or NJ Sugarhouse are household names.
Online casino games are taking over
Online casino games are taking over. Land-based casinos still play an important role, and there’s certainly a lot to be said about the experience you get from visiting a physical casino establishment.
That said, online casino games have undoubtedly brought a whole new demographic and made the casino thrill much more accessible than it was before. Table games and video slots are no longer a niche form of entertainment, but rather a mainstream pastime, accessible from every smartphone on the planet.
Humanity’s passion for hazard games has moved along with the times. It’s taken us from prohibitions and dark gambling dens to a time where most of us walk around with an array of world-class casino games in our pockets.
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