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The Fascinating History of Roulette: From Ancient China to Modern Casinos


Roulette is a popular game that has stood the test of time. There is uncertainty about the exact origins of the game, but some theories exist. 

Ancient China

One theory is that roulette was based on a board game with a magic square of 666 numbers played by Chinese monks. The Dominican monks who visited them spread the game to Europe and other parts of the world. It’s hard to imagine this as the origin of the modern game of roulette. The vision of monks sitting around playing a board game is so far removed from using a roulette app to play on a mobile phone. What could give some substance to this theory is that the sum of all the numbers on a modern roulette wheel does add up to 666. 

Roman Empire

Another theory is that roulette originated in the Roman Empire. The soldiers would play various games, and one of them was similar to the modern roulette game. They would set a shield with a number written on it face down on the ground with an arrow symbol next to it. 

The soldiers would place bets on which symbol would appear closest to the arrow once they spun the shield. This theory sounds plausible, but its only resemblance to modern roulette is the spinning of the shield. 

France and England

The early origins of roulette may be unclear, but it was unmistakably the French scientist and mathematician Blaise Pascal who invented the roulette wheel in the 17th century. 

The design and gameplay of roulette were influenced by two games that were popular in Europe in the 17th century. In 1720, a wagering game called Roly Poly using a spinning wheel and ball was played by the upper class. When gaming fell into disfavor, and Roly Poly was banned, another game was invented to get around the law. The game, called Even-Odd, was introduced in Bath, but it wasn’t long before it was also banned. 

In the late 18th century, Prince Charles of Monaco introduced gambling houses again to help the struggling economy. The version of roulette members of the upper classes would play in these casinos was very similar to modern-day European roulette. The betting system was also similar. 


Roulette was brought to the U.S. in the early 1800’s by European settlers who landed in New Orleans, Louisiana. The roulette style changed because operators of gambling houses wanted to increase the odds in their favor. A double-zero version of roulette became popular in the days of the California gold rush. 

Current day roulette

American roulette today has 38 numbers, including the single zero and double zero with the numbers 1-36. This gives the house more of an edge than European roulette with the single zero. Whether roulette originated from ancient Chinese games or elsewhere, there’s no question of its popularity today. The option of playing online and live roulette is making it more popular than ever before.

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