What is the History of Wagering?

August 8th, 2020

History of Wagering – When Did We Start To Wager?

Gambling, as it turns out, is an integral part of human history.

The word “wager” traces back to the 14th century Middle English term “wageure,” which means to make a solemn pledge or vow. Wager has since evolved to refer to betting.

The first evidence of wagering dates back to Ancient China. A collection of wooden tiles was discovered by historians and dated to be from 2300 BC. The tiles are assumed to have served the same purpose as modern casino chips. This might explain why gambling and gaming are ingrained as an intricate element of Asian culture. Evidence of card games in China date back to 800 AD, while Baccarat emerged in Europe during the 1400s.

Ancient Greece has also been credited with roots in gaming. Since wagering was illegal by Roman standards, chips were substituted for money so that players could claim they were not actually wagering. Dice was also one of the more popular games amongst the ancient Greeks. Blackjack evolved off of the Spanish card game veintiuna around the 1600s, while Casinos emerged in Italy around that time as well. Slot machines make their first appearance in 1891 as one armed bandits in New York.

Horse racing as a sport has existed for centuries, but the modern form of Thoroughbred racing rose to popularity across the globe in the 1800s. With the rise of racing came pari-mutuel betting, which involves playing against other players as opposed to the house.

Pari-mutuel betting has very specific origins dating back to 1867. The system was crafted by Joseph Oller, a famous Spanish entrepreneur from Paris who is also known for founding the famed burlesque house, the Moulin Rouge. Turns out that we have a lot to thank Oller for.

George Alfred Julius, an Australian engineer, caught wind of Oller’s formula for pari-mutuel wagering and invented the totalizator, which is the large board you see at tracks that displays the odds for all players. Also known as a tote board, the first totalizator was installed at Ellerslie Racecourse in New Zealand in 1913. The concept was later introduced globally at Arlington International in Chicago, Illinois. Arlington became the first American race course to install a tote board for pari-mutuel wagering in 1932.

by Tim Quek