Who Invented Roulette? You May Be Surprised by the Answer

16 August 2018

Roulette has a very interesting history.  Of course, these days most people play roulette online but that has not always been the case.  So, when did the game originate and how did it develop over the years? Oh and what does the name actually mean?

We’ll start with that – you have probably guessed it’s French but in English it translates as little wheel.  So, that makes sense!  As the name is French then you won’t be surprised to learn that its country of origin is… France!  It was first developed in the 17th century but it was not originally designed with its current use in mind.

Blaise Pascal, (left, 1623 – 1662) is one of the most famous mathematicians to have lived. A child prodigy he created calculating machines while still in his teens.  But it was during his search for the secret of perpetual motion that he created what for many is the original prototype for what we now know as the roulette wheel.  Although Pascal’s model was primitive compared to the final design, which came about just over a century later, this is almost like Einstein coming up with Pokémon as a by-product of the Theory of Relativity.

Apart from a few changes (the colours for the zero and the double zero) the roulette wheel was as we know it by the 1790s but was still predominantly played in French casinos.  It was not until the 19th century that the game became truly popular in the rest of Europe, also spreading to the United States of America.  If it was a child you might call it a slow developer (as was Einstein!) but once it began to really take off its path to world domination (in the casinos at least) was swift.

The French language was spoken widely in Louisiana so it is hardly surprising that it was in the bars of New Orleans that it first became popular in the United States, spreading up the Mississippi on the steamboats of the day.  With the advent of Las Vegas in the 1940s and 50s, America became the new home of roulette.

Image Credit
Yet the American city (pictured above) and – of course – Monte Carlo were the only ‘casino towns’ of note until the 1970s.  From then, however, casinos also began to flourish elsewhere and by 2008 there were hundreds of casinos around the world offering the game (as well as much more, of course).

The rise of the internet meant that the game could also be adapted for new, online audiences.  This means that roulette is with us to stay - in either real-life or online form – for a very long time to come.

One can only wonder what Blaise Pascal, living a life of genteel poverty, would think if he knew how his original roulette prototype ended up.  I expect he would have advocated gambling sensibly unlike one London man who, in 2004, sold all of his possessions – included clothing – and placed it all on ‘red’ at a casino in Las Vegas.  Incredibly he doubled his money…

First Image Credit


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