This is something of a contentious issue, because while there is a generally accepted answer to the question there are several places that roulette could have originated from.
What’s more, it seems like the game came into being through a series of happy accidents, with a number of major milestones over several hundred years turning it into the game we play today.
So pinning the game’s creation on a single person is not only incredibly difficult, but also probably not accurate either.
Roulette then, doesn’t really have an ‘inventor’, but there are a few people who significantly contributed to it, as well as lots of places from which inspiration was drawn.
In this article, we will cover every possible link we have found to the game, and give a thorough overall picture of all aspects that may have influenced how this famous spinning wheel came to be one of the hottest games on floor of any casino.
The concept of spinning something to get a random result and then making a game of it isn’t new.
It is thought that way back in time during the height of the Roman empire, soldiers used to spin shields or the wheels of carts and make a game of it.
Obviously the specifics of this are impossible to know, but it is likely to have been a fairly similar setup; perhaps splitting the wheel/shield into quarters, or drawing on a symbol and then guessing which direction it would end up facing.
This would have just been for fun or perhaps for bets between friends though, it didn’t happen in any sort of primitive casino. Such a thing did not yet exist.
The ancient Greeks are thought to have done the same, so it seems like something humanity was destined to discover.
What’s more, some theorists suggest that the game may have come from ancient China, where people would play using stones and 37 animal symbols with different values adding up to 666, which would be quite a coincidence if you have heard some of the crazy stories about roulette and the devil.
The belief is that the game made its way over to Europe via traders, and was adapted over the years, but no one can say for sure how true any of this is as it was all so long ago and evidence is extremely limited.
Biribi, Hoca, and Even-Odd
In Italy, a game called Biribi was popular until it was banned in 1837, and it is essentially roulette played on a board with some bet types taken away.
There is a board of 70 squares and players place usually low stakes on however many numbers they want to bet on.
Then the banker draws three of 70 numbers out of a bag, and any players who had the numbers covered get paid out at 64 times their stakes, so 64:1.
So essentially only straight up bets exist as inside bets, but there are twice as many of them. There were also the options to bet on high or low and odd or even numbers too.
Elements of this game are easily recognisable as influences for the roulette rules we play today, but what about the wheel and ball?
Another popular game credited with inspiring roulette was called Hoca, a lottery style game using cards with 30 points and 30 balls, but the more relevant one is Even-Odd.
This was played on a wheel, with a ball, but instead of numbers there are 20 spaces with Even (E) written on and 20 spaces with Odd (O) written on.
The house had certain sections allocated to them but the players simply had to bet on odd or even, and if they were right and the ball did not land in a house section then they were paid out.
It looks identical from afar, but the details are different.
This game was banned too, in 1782, which is excellent timing for the rise in popularity of roulette, however, it was around at more or less the same time as roulette so how much one influenced the other in unclear.
What is clear though, is if you take these games and mix them together, you get roulette.
The first historical mention of roulette in its current form goes back to a Canadian decree dated 1758, although we know it became famous in Paris, France.
However, the Frenchman often credited with roulette’s creation, Blaise Pascal, died decades before that, so why is he the generally accepted creator of roulette?
Blaise Pascal was a mathematician and inventor amongst other things, and one of the machines he was trying to create was a perpetual motion machine – that is, a wheel which spins forever using only its’ own momentum and requiring no outside influences.
He failed to create this machine, because it’s impossible, and actually, it was a very small part of his life; but he had inadvertently created the basis for the roulette wheel.
He didn’t come up with the rules, and in all probability he likely never even imagined his wheel would be used for any sort of gaming whatsoever, but the machine he came up with gave other people plenty of inspiration.
If you look at how a roulette wheel spins it is incredibly smooth, perfectly balanced, takes very little effort on the croupier’s part and looks like it could spin forever. Of course it will eventually stop, but you can imagine how someone trying to invent a perpetual motion machine might end up with a roulette wheel.
Information on exactly how this wheel came to be used for gambling does not exist, but it’s safe to assume that some amalgamation of similar games were added to Blaise’s wheel, probably by casinos or people connected to them.
The Blanc Brothers
Believe it or not, but before Francois and Louis Blanc came along, the roulette wheel had both a zero and a double zero.
We know that these days a single zero is the norm – unless you are in America where the zero and double zero is the accepted standard – but back when they removed the double zero it was revolutionary.
They did it to attract more players to visit their casino in Bad Homburg, and tempt players away from the tables in France which had a higher house edge built in.
It worked, and people came in droves, and they did the same thing again when they moved on to Monte Carlo, creating one of the most famous casinos in the world.
As a side note, this competition between French casinos and those in Monte Carlo is where the la partage rules comes from. The French introduced it to try and retain customers.
So while the game already existed before the Blanc brothers got involved, if it wasn’t for them, we might all be playing at a much higher house edge than 2.7%.