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Where Does Roulette Come From?

Roulette – which takes its name from the French for ‘little wheel’ – has long been one of the most popular casino games out there. In fact, its popularity has only increased in recent years, thanks to the rise of online gambling and virtual casinos. Between April 2008 and March 2019, a staggering £308.72 million was won during roulette games in Great Britain alone – and its enduring appeal doesn’t seem to be dwindling any time soon.

It may seem as though roulette has always been on our gambling tables and the game is now available in a variety of formats, including 3d roulette online and classic versions. However, the origins of the game are thought to lie way back in 17th century France. But how did it become the global sensation it is today? This article will examine the history of roulette to find out where the game has come from.

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

The Ancient World

Ancient China

The earliest incarnation of a roulette-style game comes from Ancient China – the same civilisation which gave rise to the lottery game keno. Discovered by Dominican monks, who later brought the game to Europe, this early roulette saw players arrange 37 animal figurines into a magic square with numbers that added up to 666. This is the principal similarity it shared with our modern roulette wheel, which also features numbers adding up to 666.

The monks are thought to have changed the board from a square to a circle, as well as added a specific slot for the number zero.

Ancient Rome and Greece

Gambling was a popular past-time for soldiers in ancient civilisations. Contemporary records show that various games involved the spinning of a chariot wheel or shield, much like a modern-day roulette wheel.

In ancient Greece, soldiers would even draw symbols on the inside of their shields, put them face-down, and arrange an arrow pointing towards it on the ground. They would then bet on which symbol the arrow would be pointing towards once the shield stopped spinning.

17th Century France

It’s generally accepted that roulette, as we know it today, was created by Blaise Pascal, a 17th century Frenchman and mathematician called. (As well as roulette, Pascal is also credited as being one of the earliest inventors of the mechanical calculator).

The game bears various similarities to two other casino games which were popular at the time: Roly Poly and Even-Odd. Both of these involved spinning a wheel and betting on the outcome. As a keen gambler himself, it’s highly likely that Pascal was aware of these games and was inspired by them to create roulette. In fact, Pascal was so keen on gambling that he even used betting principles as a way to rationalise belief in God.

19th Century to Present Day

It was from the year 1842 onwards that roulette, in its current guise, really took off. With gambling illegal in France, two Frenchman, Louis and François Blanc, decided to introduce a modified version of Pascal’s game to Hamburg, Germany.

While Pascal’s roulette featured a double zero pocket, the Blancs’ game featured just one. Single zero roulette had lower odds and, as a result, a higher return-to-player percentage. It exploded in popularity, even catching the attention of Prince Charles III of Monaco. At his request, the Blancs brought the game back to France. In 1863, they established the notorious Monte Carlo Casino Resort – and roulette was cemented as one of its most popular games.

Fast-forward to 1994, and the launch of the first online casino by Microgaming brought roulette to a wider audience than ever. From Ancient China to our computer screens, the game has entertained players for centuries, and will continue to do so for centuries to come.