History and Origins of Roulette

If you missed it, follow the link to read Part 1 or Part 2.

If you search the internet for the origins of roulette you hit a bit of a brick wall, trust me, I know. This is for a number of reasons to be honest, the first and largest issue is the simplicity of the game, a spinning disc with numbers drawn on, this has had so many iterations and I’ve no doubt that a dozen games similar to roulette has sprung up in every corner of the globe, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture a group of peasants with a cart on its side, spinning its wheel and betting on where it would stop. I mean, Wheel of Fortune has been on TV in the USA every single day since 1975! But no, what I want to explain here is the origins and history of roulette specifically, not the first time that someone bet on a spinning wheel because I imagine that game was invented the day after the invention of the wheel and I wouldn’t have much luck finding out how that happened 6000 years ago!

Roulette was invented by Blaise Pascal in 1655, Mr Pascal was a famous inventor, mathematician and physicist, obsessed with creating a perpetual motion machine, a machine that would be able to run forever without the need to add more energy into the equation however all modern physics points towards that being impossible, not that I’m saying it is. History has made enough fools of people who have declared things impossible, but for now at least, there is no perpetual motion machine. What he did produce however is now a casino classic. Roulette.

The original game of roulette had a zero and a double zero pocket so if you have read my previous article you’ll know that the original roulette is actually what we now know as American roulette. Do you see what I mean about the history of roulette? It has several origins and the first roulette was actually American roulette although it was invented by a French Mathematician in France. That’s like Isaac Newton inventing Buffalo wings in England! But I digress. This version of roulette existed for centuries with little change.

The Blanc brothers, Francois and Louis Blanc, born in Bordeaux, France were the first to adapt the existing roulette game in to what we now know as European Roulette. The single zero version was created in 1842, with the removal of one of the green pockets the odds for the player improved dramatically, from the old 5.26% house edge to just 2.70% in European roulette. Unfortunately for Francois and Louis Blanc gambling in France had recently been made illegal, so they moved their enterprise to Germany, to a small town called Homburg. They once again created a casino with their new Roulette game and again it was incredibly popular and this made the brothers very wealthy and Francois soon came to be called “The Wizard of Homburg”.

Homburg, however, could only attract people only in the summer months, during the frigid winter all the tourists preferred to visit warmer places. This gave Francois the idea of moving south to warmer climes. In the 1860s, gambling was abolished in Germany giving Francois all the incentive he needed to move on. It also happened that the Prince of Monaco had recently legalized gambling, so “The Wizard of Homburg” became the first person to establish a casino operation in Monaco. The brothers took with them their modern version of Roulette and the elite followed and Francois was soon renamed as “The Magician of Monaco”. Cementing Monaco’s position as a retreat for the rich and famous who flocked from all over the continent to spend their time and money in the glorious year round climate, in comfort and civility.

Toby Pettit