Despite numerous pieces of legislation, hundreds of social movements, and religious, social and moral condemnation, gambling has kept growing and growing.
There is a certain fascination to the art of gambling and the countless failed attempts to curb mans willingness to try and beat the odds shows that that there seems to be something innate about gambling, rooted in the very being of mankind. It is tempting to view prehistoric man’s day-to-day existence as a continual series of gambles against nature with the ultimate stake, survival, as the nonnegotiable wager. Whether this is true or not may be speculated; however, the fact remains that gambling arose at a very early time and continued to survive and flourish despite legal and religious restrictions, social condemnation, and even very unfavourably house odds.
Dice were tossed long before they were thrown to gamble, and thousands of years later, many still cannot mentally separate fate from games of chance. Just as the ancients believed that success or failure in life depended on the whims of the deities, the typical gambler today believes that his wins or losses are determined to a large extent by some supernatural force. This is probably was also the motivation behind Ashley Revel when in 2004 he decided to sell all of his possessions, clothing included, and brought US$135,300 to the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas and put it all on “Red” at the roulette table in a double-or-nothing bet. The ball landed on “Red 7” and Revell walked away with his net-worth doubled to $270,600.
Gambling has evolved from the early Assyrian and Sumerian dice, which were made of the heel bone of sheep, deer or any other animals of comparable size to Babylonians and Egyptians polished and marked coloured pebbles, to accurate randomizing devices and sophisticated theories of probabilities to analyze them in the seventeenth. Indeed many of the finest scientific and philosophical minds of the times were excitedly engaged in discussing practical and theoretical problems posed by gaming situations. Gambling has increased in sophistication and complexity, new games, modern machines and grand gaming halls shows that gambling a evolved from a crude past-time to mass phenomon. However elaborate the games may have become, it still addresses a primordial human instinct. The Ashley Revel story serves as a prime example of the fascination of gambling and the spectacular popularity it acquires.
Gambling seems to be a universal phenomenon; it is trans-cultural. In Japan for example many people are addicted to pachinko, a pinball-like game, and spend billions a year betting on the game. Brazilian spend $4 billion year on gambling, much of it on lottery tickets. According to a recent study, during a one-year period, more than 80 percent of Australia’s population gambled at least once, and 40 percent gambled each week. Adults in that country, on average, spend more than $400 (U.S.) annually on gambling, about twice the amount spent by Europeans or Americans, making Australians among the most avid gamblers in the world. In the United States from 1964 to 1999, lottery proceeds accounted for about $125 billion of state budget dollars. The gambling industry has witness unbelievable growth as is one of the largest employers and in Australia alone, it employs about 100,000 people in over 7,000 businesses.
Gambling is big business, and not matter what the future might bring in terms of legislation and social movements, it will remain a popular past-time. At the end of the day, who hasn’t dreamt of that one big win?