From Chips to Dice: The Origins of Casino Paraphernalia

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BetMGM Aug 24, 2021, 10:01 AM

While a huge portion of keen gamblers opt to play their favorite casino games online nowadays, there’s no denying that traditional, land-based casinos are where these table games originated. When sitting at a poker or a blackjack table with a stack of chips and cards in front of you, you might find yourself wondering where this casino paraphernalia originated and how different it looks today compared to when it was first invented. Here’s everything you need to know.

Cards, gambling chips and a roulette wheel against a white background.

Chips

At most casinos, chips are given to replace cash to ensure a much safer, more amicable environment for all players. After all, nobody wants to have to worry about disgruntled players grabbing back the money that they lost fair and square, and making a run for it mid-game!

Before chips were invented, most gamblers played using small, valuable objects in place of real money, from gold nuggets to gold dust. According to various sources, the first “chips” started to be used in the 19th century when casino owners realized that some form of standardization was needed. They were made out of a variety of materials that differed from casino to casino, including wood, ivory, bone, and even paper. However, they were extremely easy to forge, which caused a number of issues along the way. In an effort to solve these problems, companies started to manufacture chips out of a special clay composition, and from there, the gambling industry was changed forever.

These days, most people think that classic casino poker chips are still made out of clay, but this isn’t always the case. They are, in fact, usually made using a composite material that includes a very small amount of clay for maximum durability.

Dice

There are many popular casino table games that rely on dice for gameplay, and it’s safe to say that gambling dice games are some of the most popular casino games of all time. Think craps, Hazard, Klondike, Chuck-a-Luck, and the slightly lesser-known but fast-paced game of Banka Francesca.

Unsurprisingly, dice are considered to be the oldest casino paraphernalia in the world. According to the Ancient Greek writer Sophocles, they were first invented by the Greek Palamedes during the siege of Troy. Other experts point out Greek writer Herodotus’ claims that the first set of dice was actually crafted during the reign of King Atys by the Lydians.

However, there are many archaeologists who believe dice were used even earlier than this, although they looked a lot different to how they are made today. In fact, the dice forerunners are thought to have been made using knucklebones sourced from lots of different animals, including buffalo and sheep. As time went on, the Greeks and Romans started constructing more modern-looking dice using materials including ivory, bone, porcelain, marble and bronze.

Nowadays, most dice used when playing casino games are made out of plastic, or some type of cellulose. Classic “perfect” casino dice are usually hand-made with an accurate tolerance of 0.0001 inch, while rounded “imperfect” dice are most commonly made by machines for use when playing board games and other games during social, more casual gatherings.

Cards

If you often frequent land-based casinos or play at online casinos for real money, you’ll be well aware that the vast majority of popular casino games involve the use of cards. These games include poker, blackjack, rummy and baccarat (and are even now available to play online as live casino games.)

The Chinese are credited with producing the first set of playing cards some time during the 9th century. These were thought to have been created to act as paper forms of Chinese dominos – although it remains a mystery what games these initial playing cards were used for.

In today’s casinos, decks of playing cards are standard – sometimes even branded – with each consisting of 52 cards comprising four separate suits (diamonds, spades, hearts and clubs.) The cards are most commonly made out of various layers of cardboard that have been pasted together for a strong, yet flexible finish. 

Roulette wheel

According to historians, the inventor of the roulette wheel didn’t intend to invent one of the world’s most popular games played at a casino. Blaise Pascal, who was a French physicist, inventor and mathematician, was actually trying to create a perpetual-motion machine – a machine that operates without any need for an outside source of energy. This ambition went completely against the laws of physics but, like most academics, it was Pascal’s goal to push boundaries. Unfortunately, he failed in his mission to create such a machine, but he did succeed in playing a crucial role in the creation of roulette, which is recognized as being the third most sought-after game played in casinos to this day.

Desktops and mobile devices

Gambling paraphernalia including dice, playing cards, chips and a roulette wheel rising out of a mobile phone screen.

It’s estimated that around 17% of the global population enjoys online gambling. From playing online slot machines to traditional online casino games, there are plenty of benefits associated with embracing the most recent gambling paraphernalia – desktop and mobile devices – including the freedom to play whenever and wherever the mood strikes.  

The first online casinos were opened in the 1990s but have certainly come a long way since then, and have received more attention than ever since the COVID-19 pandemic limited people’s movement and activities. The most interesting aspect of desktop and mobile devices as casino paraphernalia? They replace the need for all other paraphernalia completely, because it’s all there in the gaming software. Try a few live dealer games and you’ll see what we mean!

Play real online slots and casino table games at BetMGM

Are you looking for a reputable online casino specializing in online slots, and table and card games to play in the comfort of your home and at your leisure? Choose BetMGM – all you have to do is register with us here or via our mobile casino app, which you can download for Android phones. 

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.