Grade 9 | Lesson 9.2 | Page 8
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THE HISTORY OF GAMBLING
• Where and when do you think gambling started?
• Gambling has existed for centuries and in most cultures and civilizations.
• Ancient world: Gambling took place in ancient China (2300 BC), in
ancient Egypt (1500 BC) and ancient Greece (1000 BC). Both the ancient
Greeks and Romans believed that their gods gambled, so it is not
surprising that many humans followed the practice.
• Evidence of gambling in ancient religions and in the Bible: In many ancient
religions, dice were used to determine the will of the gods. The way the
pieces landed, revealed the gods' answers to questions. In many ancient
religious texts there are references to gambling. In the Bible, for example,
stone dice were cast to determine the division of land to be passed down
through generations of a family, and lots were drawn for Jesus's clothes.
• Gambling used to settle disputes or to make unbiased decisions: Gambling
was also used to settle political disputes. For example, in 1000 AD, King
Olaf of Norway and King Olaf of Sweden rolled dice in order to
determine where their countries' borders would be.
• Can you think of a modern-day practice where coin-tossing is used to
make an unbiased decision?
• What are some of the instruments or objects people use in a gambling
• Dice appear to be the oldest form of gambling. Native Americans,
Aztecs, Mayas, Polynesians, Eskimos, and sub-Saharan Africans used
plum stones, peach pips, pebbles, seeds, bone, deer horn, pottery, walnut
shells, beaver teeth and seashells to play dice. The knucklebone, which has
six sides, is the direct ancestor of our modern dotted cubical die (one
“die”, two “dice”). In Arabic, for example, the word for knucklebones is
the same word as that for dice.
Grade 9 | Lesson 9.2 | Page 9
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• Cards originated in China around 900 AD. Card playing was
brought to Europe by the Mamalukes who, being followers of Islam, did
not decorate their cards with human forms; instead they used geometric
designs. When the cards made their way to Europe, card makers
introduced cards with pictures of their royal leaders: Kings, Queens and
• In the 17th century, the French invented the modern roulette, which
means “small wheel” in French.
• The slot machine, the first mechanical gambling tool, was invented in
1895 and was first used in America.