What do Asian cultures think of gambling?
Gambling is a huge part of Asian culture, especially those who came to America. For instance, the casinos in the state of California state that Asians make up 80% of their gambling patrons. That is a huge number. There are people who believe that because gambling was not allowed in Asia, that the Asian Americans grabbed on to this once forbidden form of entertainment. However, gambling has been part of Chinese culture for years.
Mahjong and Go are some of the oldest games in the world. They are often played with some form of stakes. It is considered a way to make a little money but mostly to be sociable. You can often find Asian Americans, especially Chinese Americans, playing these games for money. The games are also considered a way to keep the mind alert and sharp, even among the elderly.
Indian culture also has a healthy love for gambling. In fact, much of the literature based on the Indian culture contains bets made between powerful people and gods.
Asia loves gambling, but they do have a saying that states that a little gambling is good for your health, but too much can drive you crazy. So moderation is key once again.
Native Americans have quite a few casinos on their reservations. Is that the extent of their gambling culture?
Absolutely not. Native Americans may have casinos, but their gambling and gaming culture has been around for many years and is as rich as the Asian gaming culture. A lot of games were played in their past. And it was quite common for their ancestors to make wagers on the outcomes of those games.
One game was called the Hoop and Pole game. A hoop was made from flexible twigs found in the area and wrapped together once shaped. The hoop would be rolled across the ground in a straight line. Another person would aim a spear and hopefully throw the spear straight through the hoop as it rolled across the ground.
Peon was a game in which two different colored sticks or bones (one dark and one light) were hidden, one in each hand. The game was played with two teams. The entire purpose of the game was to prevent the other team from guessing which hands held the light colored sticks or bones.
They even had their own version of hockey. They would use large sticks to hit a wooden ball towards a goal post. And all of these games were wagered on.
Did gambling exist in Ancient Egypt, Persia and Mesopotamia?
Speaking of casinos, there are quite a few in modern Cairo, Egypt. But the modern world is not the only one in which Egypt has a gambling culture. In some ancient ruins, there have been remnants of different gaming devices. Some of them resemble modern day backgammon. But artifacts are not the only finds.
On the walls in many of the Egyptian tombs it is quite clear that there are scenes drawn that revolve around gambling. There were also hieroglyphic laws written that outlawed gambling at some point between 3000 and 4000 B.C. There was also evidence of different kinds of games that they would play other than the backgammon like game. Quite a few of these were guessing games.
Similar artifacts and paintings can be found in archaeological sites spread out across all of Ancient Persia and Mesopotamia also. The culture of gaming and gambling has been around for many years. There is a saying that there is “nothing new under the sun,” and with evidence like this, it proves that the same thing can be said of gambling. Most of our modern games are in some way based on ancient versions.
So, what about Ancient Rome?
Yes. The archaeological dig sites in Ancient Rome have also brought to light many different pieces of evidence that prove that gambling has been around for a long time.
As a matter of fact, some of the first cubical dice were found in Greece going back to around 600 B.C. They even found boards that the dice went with to create some of the first board games that used dice. So, no, Monopoly was not the first board game that used dice.
Like a lot of other Greek traditions, the gambling and games were also copied by the Romans. The soldiers would even carry around heavy and large board games and tables so they could play the games during times of war.
And then there’s the most well known gambling tradition of Ancient Rome: the gladiators. Much like we gamble on sports games today, the gladiatorial games were also wagered on. American football would be a modern equivalent to the old gladiator games. People would bet on who would live and who would die. Although some of the events were fixed to match history, so those were usually not wagered on.
So, yes, Ancient Rome was quite fond of gambling.
Were there any other cultures that embraced gambling?
Sure. There are numerous ancient tribes of Native Americans, such as the Aztecs, who enjoyed gaming and wagering on those games.
Europe in the Middle Ages also had their hands in gambling. They loved dice games. They created many card games, many of which were based on card games brought from Asia. To this day, there is a subdivision of board games that are becoming quite popular, called Euro games. This is a testament to the complexity that Europe liked to add to its games.
There are also many more Asian cultures that have not been mentioned yet that loved gambling and still do to this day. Gambling is a world wide tradition, moral ambiguity and form of entertainment. It exists just about everywhere in some form or another. And there are many cultures that embrace it and many cultures that believe it to be sinful.
One of the few places you won’t see gambling as much was in Africa for about three centuries. Bans on gambling started in 1673 and continued until the 1990s. But there are now casinos and bingo halls in Africa as well. They may be late to modern gambling, but even in Africa there were paintings found of their ancestors playing games and gambling on them.