The History of Roulette
Emerging in the European casinos of the late 17th and 18th centuries,
Roulette is widely believed to be the oldest casino game still in existence. The
word roulette means "Small wheel" and is the target of much speculation and
controversy in terms of its precise origins.
According to some gaming experts Roulette was created in China and brought to Europe by Dominican monks. But a mounting pile of evidence supports the theory that the Romans created Roulette. According to archeological studies the Romans would turn their chariot wheels on their sides and use them as gaming wheels. But the story that is perhaps most popular involves the French mathematician Blaise Pascal. As the legend goes, Pascal was in the process of trying to build a perpetual motion machine, when he suddenly figured that his spinning wheels and ball bearings could be used as a random number generator, and thus used in a game of chance. At that time a game called "roly-poly" was already popular. This game featured a spinning ball and horizontal wheel, and is now seen as a strong contender for the predecessor of modern roulette.
The first modern roulette table appeared in Paris in 1796, and later in 1842, Francois and Louis Blanc added the "0" to the roulette wheel to increase house odds. According to a Parisian legend Francois Blanc learned the secrets of roulette by signing his soul away to the Devil. This is supported mainly because the numbers of the roulette wheel add up to "666". It was around this time that roulette took the form of the roulette we know today; the familiar elements were already there - the numbered layout of pockets 1-36 with alternating red and black colors, green 0, and green 00. The 0 was actually red in color and the 00 black, and the rules were the same. Eventually these colors would be changed to green to avoid further confusion on color bets.
The Blancs moved to Germany and set up a gambling house there when gambling was banned in France, and later it was banned in Germany. It probably would have stayed an outlawed activity in Germany were it not for Charles III. The Prince of Monaco was looking for a way to relieve the financial problems that was plaguing his land, so he charged Louis Blanc with setting up Monaco's first casino. The casino became an instant sensation with the people of Monaco, and was quickly adopted as a game enjoyed by the glamorous and the wealthy. Eventually the game was also played by common folk in less upper class establishments.
Roulette moved to America in the early 1800's, due to the flood of Europeans to New Orleans and Louisiana. It suffered a drop in popularity during its first few decades in north America manly due to greedy casino owners who raised the house edge to unfair heights. After a while the game resurfaced with more reasonable house advantages in the west and it gradually moved from there to the rest of the country.
Roulette had a relatively broad sweeping appeal in America up until World War II. During this time Americans were less interested in gamming, and when they did gamble they turned to blackjack, which was widely believed to have the most beatable odds. After the war and the subsequent Las Vegas boom, Roulette became one of the post popular and most infamous gambling games of all time.