Report No. 276
B. In ancient Europe:
2.18 The Greek and Roman civilisations were amongst the first to practise gambling16. Archaeological surveys suggest that gambling was prevalent even among the earliest cavemen. Cave drawings depicting gambling offer proof of the existence of gambling in pre-historic times.
The discovery of dice-like objects called Astragali made from ankle bones of sheep or dogs dating back to 40,000 years, further adds to the archive of evidence for the existence of gambling in ancient Europe. Pairs of dice, some of them 'loaded' to fall a certain way have also been found in the ruins of Pompeii17.
2.19 From references in the writings of Homer as well as other ancient texts, it is evident that gambling activities were widespread in ancient Greece. Games contingent upon 'luck' viz. flipping of coins and dice games have always been popular among different social groups. There were designated establishments, though of ill-repute, to cater to people with a passion for gambling. In Greece, certain Gods like Hermes and Pan were associated with gambling. Even the Gods were said to have gambled; Greek mythology shows that Zeus, Hades and Poseidon played dice to divide the Universe amongst themselves18.
2.20 The first mention of dice is found in Greek history in Sophocles's writings dated 500 BC, though dice was first discovered in an Egyptian tomb dated 3000 BC. Even though all forms of gambling were forbidden within the Rome's boundaries and were punishable with a penalty worth four times the stake, gambling was still prevalent among ancient Romans. Consequent to the ban, enterprising citizens of Rome invented the first gambling chip, so that if they were caught they could claim to be playing for chips and not real money19.
2.21 In Italy, the earliest gambling houses akin to modern casinos began emerging in the early 17th century. For example, in 1638, the Ridotto was established in Venice to provide a controlled gambling environment during the annual carnival season. History of land based casinos in Austria dates back to 1765 when, in Baden, first legal casino in Europe had been opened. During 19th century Casinos were emerging in Europe while in the United States of America informal gambling houses were more prevalent20.