The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘gambling’ as “the activity of playing games of chance for money and of betting on horses”. It’s become a cliché to refer to practices that have been around for hundreds of years as being ‘as old as time’, but in the case of gambling, it’s pretty much the truth. Historians have claimed that the practice of finding a consideration, taking a risk and then awarding a prize dates back to the old stone age. The first six-sided dice was found in Mesopotamia around the year 3,000 BC, which was based on the old astragali games which are thousands of years older than even that. During the first millennium BC, there were Chinese gambling houses where locals would bet on all sorts of activities, including animal fights. 

The first casino

Over 350 years before the advent of the online casino, Venice, Italy was home to the first known casino: the Ridotto. After serving as a wing of Venice's Palazzo Dandolo near the church of San Moisè for years, it was repurposed in 1638 as a gambling house. While access to the Ridotto was available to all, the dress code and big money stakes pretty much made it an aristocratic venue. The most popular game was a card game called basetta, which was a kind of amalgamation of blackjack, poker, and gin rummy with 60 times your bet being paid out if you were to win. They also had a lotto-style game called biribi, where players would bet on 70 potential outcomes before the dealer would draw a number from a bag which would determine who took the prize pot. After over a century in business, Venetian reformer Giorgio Pisani proposed a motion to shut the casino to preserve the area’s ‘moderate behavior’ which was passed by a huge majority and in 1774 the first recorded casino was shut down.

The history of sports betting

Over 2,000 years ago, with the introduction of the Olympic Games in Greece, the world was also introduced to the concept of gambling on sporting events. After originating in Greece, the concept made its way to ancient Rome where betting on the gladiator games became a massive part of the empire’s culture. Despite efforts throughout history as early as medieval times to outlaw the practice, it’s gone from strength to strength and created a multi-billion euro industry. With advances in technology throughout the years, and markets opening on all sorts of different activities, sports betting has become a staple of culture in countries all across the globe. Millions of people are now able to bet without even going out to a bookies, as they have apps on their phone. This practice was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic which forced bookmakers around the world to shut down their in-person operations.

Gambling laws

The worldwide differences in gaming, or gambling, law make the whole process terribly complicated depending on where you are. It mostly works on a national level, but if you go to the United States or Canada, there are implications of both federal and state law. Here in Malta, Gambling is regulated and licensed nationally by a set of ‘Gaming Authorisations Regulations’. They say that “a game of chance, or a game of chance and skill, cannot be operated, promoted or sold by any person in Malta unless it is authorised to be operated under any law in Malta”. However, under article 13 of the Gaming Act, it is said that “if the game is authorised or licensed to operate under any law enacted by a Member State of the EU, by a Member State of the EEA or by any jurisdiction or territory approved by the MGA and is covered by a recognition notice issued by the MGA, the licensing requirement does not apply.”

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