Origins of the game of roulette are as mysterious as the game itself, but we can roughly pinpoint the century and the country where it originated. It’s most widely accepted that the game emerged in 18th century France, and mathematical scientist Blaise Pascal is likely to have invented a rudimentary version of the game in the 17th century while trying to find ways to design the perpetual motion machine.
Early beginnings in France
We know for a fact that the game in its present form was played at least as early as 1796 in Paris, as the novel “La Roulette, ou le Jour” by Jaques Lablee describes the game in detail. However, it seems that the game played on roulette-like wheel is more common, and it may have originated independently in several cultures.
Did the game originate somewhere else?
The Chinese may have been playing a board game very similar to roulette in ancient times, and while we have no evidence of that, we know that Roman Empire soldiers were allowed to gamble in their spare time, and one of the games involved spinning a shield or a chariot wheel, which is very similar to how roulette is played. Ancient Greeks did the same – they would draw symbols on the inner side of the shield, would turn it upside down and spin it on the ground, while an arrow placed on the ground pointed to a symbol. Spinning games similar to roulette definitely have a military origin, but these haven’t led to the creation of the modern game.
Blaise Pascal is likely to be the inventor, and he likely based his invention on some other popular games at the time such as Roly Poly and Even-Odd, both of which involved spinning a wheel and betting on the outcome of the spin. Pascal improved on this and created a version of the game very similar to what we have today.
Monaco gives rise to roulette
It’s interesting to note that roulette wasn’t very popular at the time, as gambling wasn’t popular in the first place and illegal in many countries, but Prince Charles III of Monaco entered financial problems and tried to solve them by opening a gambling establishments in Monaco, the Monte Carlo Casino (named after him!), in 1863. Roulette was there from the beginning, in its present form, with numbers 1-36, 0 and 00, and red and black colors.
Removal of the double zero
Francois and Louis Blanc invented what we today know as the European roulette in 1842 when they removed the double zero. Gambling was illegal in France at the time, so they went to Hamburg in Germany and promoted their idea there, and it quickly caught on as the house edge was reduced from 5.26% to only 2.70%.
Interestingly, the Blanc family moved to Monaco in 1860s as it was the last legal gambling territory, and therefore introduced the single zero version of the game there and made it popular.To be a successful and winning player, you need to know all the available options and types of bets that you can make at the roulette table. Read all the Roulette Rules
Exporting roulette to America
As European settlers moved to America, they took roulette with them, the French settlers who moved to Louisiana in particular. However, the single zero version of the roulette was quickly rejected by casino operators who even though the 5.26% house edge was too small. The single zero roulette never caught on in America, and the heavy focus on double zero roulette made us call it American roulette. The general public wasn’t too annoyed by the huge house edge, they still played roulette, but not as much as Europeans who enjoyed a better game. In 2016, The Venetian Las Vegas even introduced a triple zero version of roulette.
It took over 100 years for the next evolution in the history of roulette, as the invention of the Internet allowed the game to appear online. The first online casino was launched in 1994, and in the following ten to fifteen years, the online gambling industry was maturing, and roulette was the mainstay of almost every online casino. Take a look at the best online casinos where you can play your favourite casino games
Roulette completed the full circle when greater broadband Internet speeds allowed for video signal to be transmitted in real time from the gambling facility to the end consumer. This allowed the introduction of live dealer roulette, which is a real game with a physical wheel, but the player is watching it on his computer screen and is making bets remotely. Some casinos have even started to broadcast live roulette from famous casinos.
Today, roulette is a completely mature game, and we’re waiting for the next innovation to come along. Roulette can still be played in brick-and-mortar casinos, though online roulette and especially live dealer roulette are much more popular as they’re more convenient to play. The division between European and American roulette is here to stay, and French roulette offers an even lower house edge because of some special rules. We could say that today we can enjoy the best game of roulette in history, and are certainly getting a better value for our money than gamblers in the 18th and 19th century got.