Gambling culture across time and place

Gambling has been around for a long time. Before the internet that hosts online gambling today, and even before casinos existed, people were gambling with their money in one way or another. You couldn’t always play no deposit slots — and if this is something you are interested in, check out this page. The age-old game of gambling is treated differently in different cultures, and even the ravages of globalization still hasn’t wiped out the differences. Let’s have a look at gambling throughout time and place.


Let’s start out exploration of gambling in different cultures with the USA. It’s a country that is no stranger to gambling. In fact, 85% of Americans have gambled at some point in their life. But the American relationship with gambling wasn’t always that simple.


“It is … ordered that all persons whatsoever that have cards, dice or tables in their houses, shall make away with them before the next court under pain of punishment.”
— Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court ordinance, March 22, 1631.

Some of the first European settlers in America were Puritan. During this time gambling was banned. It was one of the many acts that were banned for being sinful. You couldn’t have dice, cards or any other gambling-related product in your home. Although this ban wasn’t upheld by everyone. Other colonists from Europe enjoyed gambling. It was a fun pastime for them.

The 1920s

Throughout America’s history, attitudes towards gambling have changed. This even includes Nevada, where the world’s most famous gambling city, Las Vegas, would be created. Gambling wasn’t allowed there until 1869. But the state’s acceptance of gambling wouldn’t last long. It reinstated the ban between 1910 and 1930, during the prohibition era.

Gambling for revenue

It was the Great Depression that lifted the ban on gambling. The economy needed to be kick-started again. Casinos could bring business to other industries like hospitality and lotteries have been used to stimulate revenue for centuries. This reintroduction led to the gambling nation we see today and the success of cities like Las Vegas. Gambling has even been used by Native American tribes to earn an income from their land. Clearly, gambling is a great money-making venture for Americans.


Moving onto England, we are staying in the West but it is a very old country so they have a long history of gambling. Preferences for the types of games played are still different in England and America today.


England caught on quickly that lotteries could be used to increase income. Elizabeth I was the first monarch to introduce them. Along with the prize money, you could win immunity from lesser crimes. However, this wasn’t enough to keep the lottery popular. It had a long hiatus between the early 1800s and 1993. Today the national lottery funds lots of charity work across the country.


The betting culture in England began informally. People would bet on dares and whether others could complete dangerous tasks. If you had impressive skills, it was possible to make money out of this form of betting, especially when competitions were set up. As well as competitions to bet on, gaming clubs were introduced as a more formal way of gambling. These early casinos were for the wealthy only but that didn’t mean everyone approved of gambling. In British style, there were still some who frowned upon it.

Horse racing

The classic form of gambling in the UK is horse racing. It is a popular British tradition to bet on the races. This is why betting shops are so common in England. There you can bet on any kind of sporting event you like. Considering gambling in general today, on average 46% of British people have gambled in the last month. England’s interest in gambling has not faded over time.


China is another country with a very long history with gambling. It has been dated back to the first dynasty and has continued ever since. The nation has a different attitude towards gambling compared to western countries which could be why gambling is so common in China. While the western view is that gambling is a form of entertainment and completely relies on luck, the Chinese see gambling as a financial move and investment — not a game.

The Middle Ages

13th century illustration of nine men’s morris being played with dice.

Gambling in England started in the most basic form of dice and cards. This was a time where everything happened by the will of the Gods. It must have been interesting for those who were talented at gambling and therefore were seen to have a special connection with the Gods. As gambling developed, it could be put into two categories. Gaming was the recreational category. It mostly relied on chance, not technique. The other category was wagering. This mixed luck and the technique of players. It’s similar to the high stakes games we see today like poker.

Early roots

The culture of gambling in China started 4,000 years ago. They have a similar journey to other countries as gambling moved in and out of favor with the authorities. Different governments debated whether it was morally right to let people play away their money (but are modern games much better?), but this didn’t necessarily stop gambling altogether. For example, the communist rule put an end to gambling while Macau, under Portuguese rule, has successful casinos.


However much Chinese governments have dissuaded its citizens from gambling, they have not always set a good example. Many of the times anti-gambling campaigns were run, government officials would be seen ignoring their own advice and gambling themselves. It can be hard to get a message across if you are not even abiding by it yourself.

As you can see, attitudes throughout the ages in different countries have affected the attitudes towards gambling today. While most countries have a history of banning gambling for moral reasons and then legalizing it again for financial gain, the perception of gambling varies in different cultures. Gambling in America is all about luxury, having fun and getting lucky — while the Chinese use gambling to invest their money. In any case, gambling remains popular and will continue to be so for all foreseeable future.

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