The Unlikely Origins of the Roulette Wheel

min read
A croupier about to drop a ball into a roulette wheel.
BetMGM May 19, 2023, 9:01 AM

Whether or not you’re a fan of casino table games or jackpot slots, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the roulette casino game, a game that continues to grow in popularity as the years pass. The game offers a range of odds that appeal to first-time gamblers and experienced players alike. Even though roulette has a long history dating back to ancient times, the actual origins of the game are quite a mystery. The wheel itself underwent an impressive evolution before becoming the glossy, fast-spinning version we know today. Join us as we unpack the unlikely origins of the roulette wheel and witness the evolution of what is now one of the most popular online casino games in the world.

The Earliest Days of Roulette

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, a popular game among soldiers involved drawing symbols on the inside of their shields, laying the shield face down on the ground and placing an arrow next to it. They would then spin the shield and bet on which symbol would stop in front of the arrow. 

Ancient Rome

Wheel of Fortune (also known as Rota Fortunae) was another popular wheel-based game in ancient Rome and is generally viewed as one of the earliest ancestors of roulette. At the time, a wagon wheel was used, supported horizontally by a pin on which an arrow was fixed. The wheel was divided into different sectors on which Roman soldiers could bet as the wheel spun. This game underwent several changes over the following centuries while the rules stayed more or less the same. 

Another Italian influence on modern roulette can be found in Lotto Reale, which consisted of a folding table that had 36 pockets. People would bet on the numbers, as well as on red and black and other combinations similar to modern roulette bets.

The Mystery Continues

You may have heard that roulette was invented by a monk or — even more unlikely — a man who later committed suicide because he invented a game that could not be won.

Some even consider roulette to be the “devil’s game,” seeing that all the numbers on the wheel add up to 666. But we can assure you no evil is at play here! Unlike these legends and old wives’ tales, the origin of the roulette wheel is far less gloomy yet perhaps even more intriguing.

The clue to this mystery is all in the name — roulette being French for “little wheel” — which proves that the game is certainly of French origin. There is much speculation about who actually invented the wheel as we know it today and which was introduced to the French aristocracy in the 18th century. 

The two most popular theories center around a mathematician and a French entrepreneur. According to the first, the mathematician Blaise Pascal was considered to have invented the wheel. At the time, he was trying to develop a perpetual-motion machine. A mistranslation of his treatise on geometry called “roulette” (from the Italian word “rulletta,” meaning “curve”) made for a perfect backstory.

According to the second theory, the owner of casinos in Bad Homburg and Monte Carlo, François Blanc, is credited with the invention of the game as we know it when he removed the double-zero box in 1843. Given that the game had already been around for more than a century, his contribution cannot be considered more than an innovation. 

The Most Likely Answer

It seems that the exact origins of the game and the invention of the modern version of the roulette wheel will remain a mystery. What we do know, however, is that roulette was clearly influenced by two very similar games that were popular in 17th-century Europe — Roly Poly and Even-Odd — both of which involved a spinning wheel and bets placed on the outcome. In fact, in combining these two games, it may well have been François Blanc who put it all together and refined the wheel, which was subsequently introduced to gambling audiences. 

Speculation remains, but one thing is certain — roulette is now one of the most popular games in land-based establishments and online casinos alike. From glamorous gambling houses in Monaco to world-class gaming at BetMGM, roulette has traveled around the world and found its way onto our mobile screens. What a journey!

Why Roulette Is One of the World’s Most Popular Casino Games

Now that you know more about the mysterious origins of the game, you’ve played a few games and you’ve brushed up on your strategy and roulette lingo, you’re probably wondering how it’s possible that roulette remains so popular today. 

So, what is it about betting on roulette wheel numbers that gets gamblers so excited? Here are just a few reasons:


The anticipation that comes with every spin of the American roulette wheel (or any wheel, for that matter) is simply thrilling! Did you know that a croupier typically spins the wheel up to 45 times an hour? That’s a lot of excitement crammed into a short space of time. 


Roulette is easy to understand. There aren’t any complicated strategies or rules to learn. All you need to do is place your bets on the table and then watch the wheel spin. This simplicity makes the game accessible to everyone, regardless of their experience level. 

Impressive Payouts

When betting on roulette wheel numbers, you could win up to 35 times your wager, depending on the type of bet you place. This makes the game incredibly attractive to players who are looking for a chance to win big.

How To Improve Your Win Rate When Playing Roulette

Looking to win more often when playing roulette? A popular strategy is the Martingale system according to which you double your bet after every loss. 

Alternatively, you can bet on multiple numbers at once, rather than just one or two. This increases your chances of winning but also reduces the size of your potential payout.

Finally, don’t forget to manage your bankroll carefully. Set a limit for how much you want (and can afford) to spend and stick to it. 

Why Play Roulette Online?

Playing online roulette offers several advantages over playing in a land-based casino. Firstly, online casinos are accessible from anywhere, so you can play your favorite games from the comfort of your own home. This convenience is particularly appealing if you live far away from a traditional casino or you have a busy schedule.

Another advantage of playing online roulette is the wide variety of games available. Most online casinos offer many different spin-offs and variations of the game, including European, American and French roulette. 

Do you love the excitement of playing roulette on the casino floor? Then live dealer roulette is the version for you! This is an online variation of the game in which you play with a live dealer who spins the wheel in real time. It gives you a more immersive and realistic experience compared to playing against a computer.

Discover the Best Casino Games at BetMGM

Has all this talk about roulette got you ready to try your luck at landing a winning bet? You’ve come to the right place if you’d like to learn how to play roulette at a casino. Not only do we offer a wide range of online roulette games, including live dealer casino games, but you’ll also find a wealth of information in our blog posts to help get you started. Be sure to check out our menu of popular casino table games and online slots, too! 

Register at BetMGM to explore our ever-growing offering.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.