Roulette History: Discover The Origins of Roulette | LeoVegas

Roulette History Explained

Roulette, as we know it today, has been around since the late 18th century. The classic table game is widely regarded as being of French origin and was made popular in the country’s capital city. However, there’s a case to be made for it having been heavily influenced by a game from Italy.

Still, France gets the credit for inventing roulette, which can be hard to dispute when the game’s name hails from the French language. It likely developed from the Italian game of Biribi, but its name actually means “little wheel” in French. As such, the game will forever be tied down as a French invention.

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Now, roulette is played all over the world with a whole host of variants. You’ve got the classics with French, European, and American roulette, as well as modern incarnations. Some roulette games offer massive multipliers, while others draw inspiration from popular slot games.

Join us as we venture through the history of roulette!

Origins of Roulette

Roulette is a classic gambling game of distinctly European origin. Naming a nation as deserving of all the credit for roulette doesn’t really work well, as there are two clear influencers on the game’s creation. The two, being France and Italy.

The Italian Connection

The clear Italian inspiration for roulette comes from the game of Biribi. The setup featured a sheet of numbers from one to 70 and a banker with a bag of numbered tickets. Players would bet on the numbers on the board, and a banker would then draw a number to decide a winner. It was banned in Italy in 1837, a few decades after modern roulette came to the fore.

French Influences

France’s stake in roulette history comes from the inventor Blaise Pascal. Born in Clermont-Ferrand, the mathematician and physicist sought to create a perpetual motion machine in the 17th century. During this search, it’s said that he created what would prove to be a primitive form of the roulette wheel. Eventually, the original form of the game we now play became commonplace in Paris as early as 1796.

Birth of the Modern Roulette Wheel

Drawing from Pascal’s work and the long-established randomized game of Biribi, the modern roulette wheel is thought to have been around since the end of the 18th century.

Blaise Pascal’s Contribution

A famed inventor, Blaise Pascal’s work on the perpetual motion machine that would contribute to the creation of roulette certainly isn’t his greatest contribution to society. Yet, it’s tough to deny its impact on the entertainment and gambling world.

18th-Century Transformations

The 18th-century transformation of roulette layout that led to the roulette game we know today, was the inclusion of the little wheel with the numbered board for betting. Importantly, the game had two bank slots that couldn’t be bet on by the players. This is how the house would originally mark its edge. This was detailed by Jacques Lablée when playing at the Palais Royal in the French capital. At the time, red and black were the colours of the single and double-zero pockets, but that was changed at the turn of the century.

Roulette’s Journey to America

As with many forms of gambling, when European settlers came to America, the go-to route for establishing gambling houses was up the Mississippi and then to the Wild West. Of course, up the river, there’s one place that stands out for its welcoming attitude to games of chance and French history…New Orleans!

Introduction in New Orleans

Founded in 1718 by the French, La Nouvelle-Orléans was heavily influenced by its European settlers. As games like roulette took off on the European continent, more people would bring them to France’s other territories, including those in North America. What is now Québec, banned roulette in 1758, but it thrived in New Orleans.

Adaptations for American Audiences

While you won’t notice this playing online, in US brick and mortar casinos, rampant cheating on both sides of the table caused the house to put the wheel on top of the table. Of course, it wasn’t just roulette that saw people try to rig the game. In the Old West, poker famously saw its share of cheaters.

Changes in Roulette Wheels Design

Along with the table layout being changed for the New World, many of the additional betting zones were removed, and the table was simplified. This was also partially done to help tackle the cheating problem. Classic French roulette, and even many modern French tables, have additional betting options and rules like En Prison, but they were removed in the American variants.

Addition of Double-Zero Pocket

The main adaptation that holds to this day for roulette is two zero pockets. Nowadays, if you see two green zero pockets you know that it’s American roulette and the house has a much greater edge than a single-zero game. Moving from 37 numbers with one zero to 38 numbers with two of these green pockets bumps the house edge from 2.7% for European wheels to 5.26% on American roulette tables. Some gambling dens went further to add what was essentially a third zero pocket, usually taking the form of an eagle or liberty pocket.

Roulette in the 19th Century

During the 1800s, roulette became one of the biggest gambling games in the world and even helped to establish Europe’s elite-tier gambling destination.

Flourishing Popularity

While Europe was the home of roulette, that didn’t stop this table game from becoming incredibly popular overseas. In North America, it became as popular as classic card games. In Europe, the adaptation to a single-zero casino game by the Blanc brothers helped them to establish Monte Carlo as the place to be for the continent’s elite.

Socio-Cultural Impact

Roulette was very much a game played for the upper class in Europe. Still, as Europe spilled out to the rest of the world, it was roulette that they took along to establish gambling dens. North America stuck with the two green pockets, while elsewhere, Europeans brought single-zero roulette with them.

Rise in High-Society Circles

While gambling endured a somewhat tumultuous time in many European countries in the 19th century, this only helped to enhance the allure of the game in high society. Particularly in Paris, the aristocracy of France and neighbouring countries would gather to bet on live roulette games.

Influence on Literature and Arts

Roulette was incredibly popular in the 19th century, so it naturally became a subject for many artists. Perhaps the most famous comes in the form of the 1892 piece ‘At the Roulette Table’ by Edvard Munch. The oil painting depicts a glamorous game of roulette in Monte Carlo.

The 20th-Century Roulette Revolution

As technology advanced, so too did the game of roulette. Still, it wasn’t until the very end of the 20th century that the foundations would be laid to enable the rise of popular casino games, like Mega Roulette Live.

Technological Advancements

A huge help to the appeal of roulette was the rise of manufacturing. This enabled the creation of perfectly balanced wheels, which would ensure fairness on each spin.

Automated Roulette

Automated roulette, in its physical form, is a mechanical version of the game that spins the wheel without the need for a croupier pushing it around. Funnily enough, this aligns roulette more closely with the perpetual motion machine that Blaise Pascal was working on when he created the wheel, which later evolved into roulette.

Introduction of Online Roulette

In 1994, Microgaming created the first online casino software, and of course, roulette was one of the centrepiece games of this new world of gambling. Powered by a random number generator program, games like European roulette were easier to bring to internet gaming than slot machines.

Roulette History FAQs

Who invented roulette?

Frenchman Blaise Pascal is thought to be the inventor of the original form of roulette, coming across initial designs while trying to invent a perpetual motion machine. Many also give credit to the game of Biribi, which hailed from Italy.

Where did American Roulette originate?

American Roulette originated in France. Early formats of the table game from France featured a zero and a double-zero pocket. This is the variant that took root in the US even while the more player-friendly single-zero game began to flourish in Monte Carlo and, subsequently, across Europe.

How did roulette evolve over the centuries?

Roulette evolved from a combination of Blaise Pascal’s perpetual-motion machine and the game of Biribi into its earliest familiar form in 1796. In this game of roulette, the zero and double-zero pockets were reserved for the bank. Later, Louis and François Blanc created single-zero roulette to be more competitive.

As roulette spread in Europe, single-zero became the standard. In the US, double-zero won, and in many casinos, there was a third pocket to increase the house edge even further, usually coming in the form of an eagle pocket.

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