According to the German research company Statista, the global gaming market in 2023 is worth $92.9 billion. A 2021 study by H2 Gambling Capital shows that betting is now the undisputed global leader, accounting for 48.7% of the total gambling market. Betting is followed by the online casino industry (26.8% of the global gaming market), followed by the lottery (8.9%) and poker (6.2%). These statistics show that global gambling has grown steadily over the past 20 years. In recent years, several trends in gambling have emerged: the online formats of live casinos are gaining popularity, which may vary according to the development of technology, and will determine the face of world gambling in the foreseeable future. Experts consider the introduction of VR/AR technologies to gambling to be an equally significant trend. VR and AR already today allow to expand the gaming experience of «live» casinos using visualization, real sounds and tactile sensations. In the coming years, players will be able to experience the way they hold chips and cards, click on slots buttons and so on. The role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has been growing in recent years, allowing to improve the tools of secure identification of players, data processing in real time, integration of payment decisions with confidential accounts and open user profiles in social networks, biometric confirmation of user’s identity and so on. The gambling market is changing rapidly, and now hardly anyone will dare to predict with certainty those processes of play that will become commonplace in a couple of years. It is all the more interesting to remember how the industry developed, how it all started and how it came to what it is now – the fascinating evolutionary history of world gambling and its transformation into a multi-billion-dollar industry.
The advent of gambling: the first dice and cards
The whole history of gambling will not be built, because the origins from which everything began are hidden in the darkness of millennia. However, archaeologists discover various game culture objects during excavations in various parts of the world – primarily, the dice. The oldest dice were found in Iran during the excavation of the town of Shahre Sukhte, and are approximately 5,200 years old. At the same time, mentions of bones are found in sources of ancient Indian culture – in «Rigveda», «Atharva-veda», «Mahabharata» and so on. Ancient Greeks were also fond of the game of dice: according to one of the tales, it was played by soldiers waiting for the battle under the legendary Troy. They also played craps in ancient Rome. Officially, this entertainment was banned, except for the holidays of the Roman Saturnalia (winter holiday ending farming). In the ancient Germanic tribes, which lived periodic raids on ancient Rome, dice had a sacred value. Through them people have tried to learn about the favor of the higher divine forces. And it is not for nothing that people come to the casino and say that they want to test their fate by measuring their luck. In addition to the bones, were popular in Antiquity some kind of prototype roulette: discs or wheels rotating on the edge of the sword. Playing cards have also been around for a long time, though their history is even more complicated than that of playing dice. Archaeological scientists tend to believe that the first maps appeared in East Asia. The roots go back to the same dice: perhaps the first decks were created by a gradual transformation from dice to dominoes, which was then transferred to cardboard – so the first cards with a scale of points appeared. It is known that the first Indian cards were round, had eight suits, had 96 cards, and the principles of the game were similar to chess. It is not possible to trace the movement of maps from Asia to Europe. Most likely, they penetrated here through Persia and Egypt. For example, the cards of the Mamluks (members of the desert military aristocracy) resembled Tarot cards in many ways, although they were missing images, as required by the Qur’an. Instead of pictures, the eastern maps used geometric ornaments, the so-called «arabeski». The first mention of cards in Europe dates back to the 14th century, and most often they are related to game bans. However, despite all the bans, the cards quickly became popular, and by the 16th century had spread to different countries in Europe – they played absolutely everything: the commoners and kings. There is a version that the playing cards were invented by Jackman Gringonner, court jester of King Charles VI of the Mad. The cards were supposedly invented by Jacqueline for the pleasure of the ruler, consisting of a deck of 54 cards, which is now called French (and it is not surprising that it has a «joker», an omnipotent card with the image of a jester). Often pictures on European maps used images of specific historical and legendary characters. In particular, in one of the decks, the jack of hearts was called «lahire» – by the name of La Gira, the French commander of the Hundred Years’ War era, the jack of diamonds «hector» – in honor of Hector, the leader of the Trojan Army, and the jack of Clubs «lancelot» – in honor of Lancelot, the knight of the Round Table. The list of prototypes in drawings of different masters varied, among kings, for example, Solomon, August, Constantine the Great and Clovis. The cards were originally designed to depict people in full size, and it was only in the 19th century that symmetrical maps were produced for ease of use.
Appearance of the first gambling houses
It is believed that the first gambling houses appeared in ancient Rome, during the reign of Tarquinius Gordo. It was he who came up with the idea of building the so-called Great Circus, the most capacious racetrack in Antiquity, where dice and horse betting were played. In Europe, one of the first casinos opened in Venice in 1638 – the famous Ridotto is located in the left wing of the Church of Moses. The idea of the Venetian authorities was to tax control of gambling entertainment on the days of the annual carnival. The entrance to Ridotto was only allowed to aristocrats, so maintaining the establishment was quite profitable. In France, the first casino opened in 1765 by order of Cardinal Mazarin, who decided to replenish the royal coffers through the development of the gambling house. It was here in addition to the popular card games that appeared roulette, which, according to one of the popular versions, invented mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal (he did need it to study the principles of probability theory). Roulette quickly gained popularity among gamblers, and soon casinos appeared in almost all European countries. The 19th century saw the emergence of the famous Bad Homburg and Baden-Baden-Baden gambling clubs, which became the focus of European gaming life. These establishments were later forced to close in 1872, after the unification of German lands, because the law on prohibition of casinos was passed (gambling in Germany was again finally legalized only in 1950). The history of the development of the first gambling house in Monaco is linked to the plight of the Principality in the second half of the last century. After the Austro-Italian-French War of 1859, the state was forced to recover at an accelerated pace. Here opened the resort, to which the railway was held, and moved here from Germany businessman and financier Maurice Blanc organized a successful gaming business, building on the project of the architect Jean Louis Garnier a real «roulette temple». Soon an entire city, still known to the world as Monte Carlo, grew up around the building.
Gambling in the United States
The first maps and dice appeared in America when Christopher Columbus conquered the mainland. However, gambling as such was for a long time under the official ban, as it was condemned by the rather harsh Puritan morality of the first settlers. However, in the 18th century, horse racing was allowed in America, during which the organizers accepted betting on the betting. The lottery was also very popular in the United States at the time, which financed the construction of the first major city on the mainland, Jamestown in Virginia. Lottery sponsorship was so prevalent at the time that it was organized in America to build roads, bridges, churches, hospitals, schools, and universities, as well as to fund military, social, cultural programs, and so on. Within 250 years of colonization, lotteries had helped people to build hundreds of facilities in all the states that existed at the time. In the 18th century, the development of gambling in America only accelerated. Cities on the Mississippi River became centers for various games, and enterprising businessmen organized even floating gambling cruises along the river banks. Local farmers, who had large sums of money left in their hands after the sale of livestock and products, used to, in such casinos, all lost. By the 50s of the XIX century, the center of the gambling business moved to California, living at the time in the boom «gold rush». In 1856, San Francisco alone had over 100 gambling houses. The realization of the threat from the rapid development of the gaming industry came to the American authorities only in the second half of the 19th century. There have been increasing reports in the press revealing that gambling is damaging to the economy and ruining the lives of ordinary citizens. For example, a rather resonant incident, which has stirred up the public in almost all the states, happened in 1835, when known wild temperament southerners literally lynched five card cheaters. Official bans on gambling in some states went back to the 1930s, and in the 1960s casinos were banned almost all over the country. The lottery was widely restricted at the time, with the exception of three states, Delaware, Missouri and Kentucky. For many decades, America’s gambling life has gone underground, and its legal blossoming is only in the first half of the 20th century.
The 20th Century Gambling Industry: «One Armed Bandits», the First Video Slots
In America, slot machines appeared in the late 19th century. At that time, such machines were called «slot machines» (slot machine, slots – slots for receiving coins), and the first models were both slot and commercial (they included the prototypes of modern vending machines). The arcade era began in the mid-1980s, when the first Sittman and Pitt slot machine appeared in the United States. It featured five random cards to make a winning poker hand. The story of the first full-fledged slot is related to the name of German-American Charles Faye, who built the first slot machine in his shop. She worked exclusively for the five-cent coins, and the maximum win was only ten such coins, that is, a maximum of half a dollar. The machine, invented in 1895 by Charles Faye, consisted of three reels with dozens of symbols – horseshoes, bells, card suits and so on. The inventor called his slot machine «Liberty Bell», but this name did not stick: the people called the machines «one-armed bandits». A year later, Fai presented the «lottery» version of the new slot machine called «4-11-44». Actually, the numbers 4-11-44 indicated the maximum winning combination in the new machine. In 1896, Charles Faye opened a slot machine factory, and later, when the state officially legalized the slot machine with cash payments, he developed a poker machine with a counter and cash winnings. However, the authorities later began a legislative attack on gambling. Under the hand got and quickly spread slot machines – numerous local and federal decrees and laws prohibiting «one-armed bandits» in the USA were issued almost every year. This forced machine owners to use all sorts of tricks. For example, one of the popular manufacturers – Mills Liberty Bell – has launched a line of special devices for selling chewing gum. The trick was that such machines were additionally equipped with the same special handle, pulling for which people could win money. This type of machine was nicknamed fruit-machines because the slots had fruit symbols (plums, oranges, lemons, mints, cherries and BAR packaging labels). In 1915, slot machines also appeared in Las Vegas, founded ten years before the capital of Nevada, which was famous for its relative freedom compared to other states. The first Las Vegas slots could be won in the equivalent of cigars or alcohol prizes. The final legalization of various types of gambling in America took place only in 1931. This helped Las Vegas flourish: local businessmen decided to turn the city into a gambling paradise to attract tourists. Thomas Hull opened the Casino Hotel in 1941 with the first such facility, El Rancho Vegas. El Rancho Vegas was immediately positioned as a solid hotel with 110 luxury rooms. The facade of the building itself was designed in the Spanish style, and interior interiors reminded visitors of the times of the harsh Wild West. The casino room initially had two blackjack tables, one for roulette and one for dice. In addition, visitors could try their luck on one of the 70 slot machines. In the following decades, Las Vegas grew from year to year with new gambling establishments, some of which were sponsored by major representatives of American organized crime. So, Bugsy Siegel, the founder of the criminal group of killers Murder Incorporated, decided to invest part of his criminal income in the construction of the largest gambling establishment in Las Vegas at that time – the casino club «Flamingo»which flourished long after Siegel’s tragic death. «Flamingo Became the first such gambling institution, and in general, in the 50s of the last century, such casinos as Sahara, Sands, Riviera, Tropicana, and Binion’s Horseshoe were built.
In Europe, the first «one-armed bandits» began to appear in the tenth years of the last century. Mills Novelty has made changes to the classic American Liberty Bell slot machine, and has launched a fruit themed slot machine. Prior to the First World War, more than 30,000 such assault rifles had appeared in various parts of the continent. The first electromechanical slot machine appeared in the 1930s. The American company Jennings launches the production of Jackpot Bell machines, which have the movement of the slot drum started under the influence of an electric motor, and instead of the classic lever «hand» appears a button. In the 1950s, this type of machine gun was further developed, with five horsepower motors installed. In 1964, Bally, a well-known Western-market manufacturer of pinball machines, launched the Money Honey electric slot machine, equipped with an automatic hopper. Thus, when the jackpot falls, coins are poured into a special metal tray with a characteristic sound. Meanwhile, technological progress has not stood still, and after ten years the first slot machines appear, which can be called prototypes of modern video slots. Fortune Coin Co’s first car upgrades were installed at the Las Vegas Hilton. They were equipped with a 19-inch Sony Trinitron screen, and the game combinations identified an electronic random number generator.
In 1978, International Game Technology (IGT) acquired all the rights to produce Fortune Coin Co, redesigned the machines and launched a new line of video machines with poker. The next decade saw the real growth of electronic slot machines, which, through the introduction of full-fledged computer technology, gradually evolved into well-known slot machines. Technical improvements allowed manufacturers to produce machines for every taste, using a variety of design variations in external and symbolic design. Slot machines have changed not only in appearance. In competition, slot machine manufacturers developed various variants of jackpots, bonus game systems and payouts, and in the United States appeared large jackpots of winnings across the country. The slot machines themselves have flooded the halls of classic casinos, bringing in the cashier of each institution no less solid profit than the traditional roulette or poker room.
The development of online gambling in the 90s and 2000s
From the mid-1990s gambling began to gradually move to the Internet. Formally, the development of the online gaming industry has been linked to the passage in 1994 of the Antigua and Barbados Caribbean Free Trade and Services Act, which regulates, inter alia, gambling licensing. The Licensing Authority of FISPAA includes the authority to authorize online gaming for all companies registered in the jurisdiction. Also in 1994, Microgaming was founded, and has evolved into the world’s leading online casino software developer. At that time, Microgaming developers started working on a special platform that could be used to install special software – game simulators. At the same time, CryptoLogic Inc (now known under the Amaya brand), International Game Technology, Playtech, and Realtime Gaming began to appear. So, the first full-fledged online casino Europa Casino introduced in the mid-1990s Playtech. In 1996, the so-called Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) was established as the official regulator for Quebec City, Canada. Three years later, the Kahnawake Commission adopted and approved the basic rules governing the interactive gaming industry, taking control of the licensing of online casinos, poker rooms, and betting houses. Since its inception, KGC has licensed more than 50 of the largest international operators working in a variety of gambling segments. In 1997, Microgaming’s Fantastic Sevens Online Casino, a legendary three-slot classic that was virtually styled to match the real-life Las Vegas slot machine. By this time, the number of popular online casino sites on the Internet is already several hundred, and more and more people from different countries are involved in games. In the same year, Casino-on-Net was launched. In the West, 888 is well known as one of the oldest giants in the gambling market. Based in the British Virgin Islands in 1997, the 888 entered the IPO on the London Stock Exchange in the mid-zero years, which is a sign of status: not many gambling operators can boast of trading their shares. For the next few years, the founders of the holding, the brothers Avi and Aaron Shaked and the brothers Sheia and Ron Ben-Itzhak, were actively engaged in the study of the market of the latest Internet technologies. They then launched another Reef Club Casino and Pacific Poker room. In 1998, Microgaming introduced the world’s first progressive online slot game, leading to an even greater popularity of a variety of online casinos. That same year, Planet Poker, the first online poker room to offer real money. Prior to this, poker fans «played» in text mode using the IRC client (Internet Relay Chat). Paradise Poker is the second poker room with a high profile and a large number of players, and has developed software to keep you in the lead of professional poker players until the middle of the zero years. Since the beginning of Zero, online poker has been developing, and new rooms have appeared, many of which still work in one form or another. Among them, for example, Party Poker, Poker Stars. A characteristic feature of all these virtual projects was that there were no poker networks and each poker room offered players its own software.
Online gambling continued to grow rapidly in the early years of 2001, when the number of online gamblers exceeded 8 million (an approximate figure that gives an idea of the growth of online gaming). According to experts, today at least 25% of the world’s population is involved in gambling on the Internet. Global online gambling is also growing: already in 1998, according to the report of the international consulting company Frost & Sullivan, the profit of gaming sites exceeded $830 million. By 2016, online gambling was making $37 billion to its owners, and total annual world revenue in 2019 was a record $4.5 trillion (analysts predict that this figure will almost double in 2026).
Huge in scale, modern gambling has come a long way. Those not far away from the monkeys, the primitive community men who carved the first similarities of the dice out of the stone with primitive tools, could not even think of what their fun after millennia of intelligent history will lead to. Built by nature itself, the interest in the game still drives man, makes him fantasize, inventing a variety of variations and gambling, and developing, and computer games. The huge, multi-billion dollar industry of the global gaming industry lives in excitement, breathes it and inspires creative people to search for new ideas – no one knows what will happen with gambling not that in the coming centuries, but in the coming years. One thing is clear: there will always be money in this world, and someone will also earn this eternal human passion.
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