Gambling History

Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value (referred to as "the stakes") on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods. Typically, the outcome of the wager is evident within a short period.

The term gaming in this context typically refers to instances in which the activity has been specifically permitted by law. The two words are not mutually exclusive; i.e., a 'gaming' company offers (legal) 'gambling' activities to the public and may be regulated by one of many gaming control boards, for example, the Nevada Gaming Control Board. However, this distinction is not universally observed in the English-speaking world. For instance, in the UK, the regulator of gambling activities is called the Gambling Commission (not the Gaming Commission). Also, the word gaming is frequently used to describe activities that do not involve wagering, especially online.

Gambling is also a major international commercial activity, with the legal gambling market totaling an estimated $335 billion in 2009. In other forms, gambling can be conducted with materials which have a value, but are not real money. For example, players of marbles games might wager marbles, and likewise games of Pogs or Magic: The Gathering can be played with the collectible game pieces (respectively, small discs and trading cards) as stakes, resulting in a meta-game regarding the value of a player's collection of pieces.


Religious perspectives on gambling have been mixed. Ancient Hindu poems like the Gambler's Lament and the Mahabharata testify to the popularity of gambling among ancient Indians. However, the text Arthashastra (c. 4th century BCE) recommends taxation and control of gambling. Both the Catholic and Jewish traditions have even set aside days for gambling, (for Jews Hanukkah), although religious authorities generally disapprove of gambling. Ancient Jewish authorities frowned on gambling, even disqualifying professional gamblers from testifying in court. The Catholic Church holds the position that there is no moral impediment to gambling, so long as it is fair, all bettors have a reasonable chance of winning, there is no fraud involved, and the parties involved do not have actual knowledge of the outcome of the bet (unless they have disclosed this knowledge). Gambling has often been seen as having social consequences. For these social and religious reasons, most legal jurisdictions limit gambling. Some Islamic nations prohibit gambling; most other countries regulate it.


Many popular games played in modern casinos originate from Europe and China. Games such as craps, baccarat, roulette, and blackjack originate from different areas of Europe. A version of keno, an ancient Chinese lottery game, is played in casinos around the world. In addition, pai gow poker, a hybrid between pai gow and poker is also played.


Many jurisdictions, local as well as national, either ban gambling or heavily control it by licensing. Such regulation generally leads to gambling tourism and illegal gambling in the areas where it is not allowed. The involvement of governments, through regulation and taxation, has led to a close connection between many governments and gaming organizations, where legal gambling provides significant government revenue, such as in Monaco or Macau.


Because contracts of insurance have many features in common with wagers, insurance contracts are often distinguished under law as agreements in which either party has an interest in the "bet-upon" outcome beyond the specific financial terms. E.g.: a bet with an insurer on whether one's house will burn down is not gambling, but rather insurance — as the homeowner has an obvious interest in the continued existence of his/her home independent of the purely financial aspects of the "bet" (i.e., the insurance policy). Nonetheless, both insurance and gambling contracts are typically considered aleatory contracts under most legal systems, though they are subject to different types of regulation.

There is generally legislation requiring that the odds in gaming devices are statistically random, to prevent manufacturers from making some high-payoff results impossible. Since these high-payoffs have very low probability, a house bias can quite easily be missed unless checking the odds carefully.


Many betting systems have been created in an attempt to "beat the house" but no system can make a mathematically unprofitable bet in terms of expected value profitable over time. Widely used systems include:

Card counting - Many systems exist for Blackjack to keep track of the ratio of ten values to all others; when this ratio is high the player has an advantage and should increase the amount of their bets. Keeping track of cards dealt confers an advantage in other games as well.

Due-column betting - A variation on fixed profits betting in which the bettor sets a target profit and then calculates a bet size that will make this profit, adding any losses to the target.

Fixed profits - the stakes vary based on the odds to ensure the same profit from each winning selection.

Fixed stakes - a traditional system of staking the same amount on each selection.

Kelly - the optimum level to bet to maximize your future median bank level.

Martingale - A system based on staking enough each time to recover losses from previous bet(s) until one wins.


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