With its red and black wheel, Roulette is certainly one of the most recognisable casino games. This casino classic has been featured in films and played pivotal roles in good storylines for years. But where did it originate and how did it become the game it is today?
The first reference to Roulette can be found as far back as 18th Century France, in a book by Jacques Lablee. As the French sounding name, that translates to ‘Little Wheel’ suggests, the game originated in Paris, and has been played in something close to its present form from as early as 1796. There was an earlier reference to the game in the regulations for the new French colony in Quebec, stating that ‘Roulette’ was specifically prohibited in 1758. However, there is no description, so it’s hard to say what form the game took at that time.
Originally, the Roulette wheel had single and double zero pockets in red and black, but to avoid confusion these were changed to green in the early 1800’s. In 1843, when the game made it as far as the German spa and casino town of Bad Homburg, a French entrepreneur removed one of the zero pockets to give players a better chance of winning, and to compete with neighbouring casinos for custom.
In the 1860’s Germany followed suit with the rest of Europe and abolished gambling, leaving Monte Carlo as the only place in Europe where this activity was still legal. Roulette remained a favourite of the elite who visited the famed Monte Carlo casino, where generally the single zero version of the game was played.
In the meantime, Roulette had travelled with settlers to the USA and become a popular game throughout. Most Roulette wheels in the USA had a double zero, but the table layout changed somewhat to facilitate a faster game.
In the end, 3 variants of Roulette emerged, American Roulette with a double zero on the wheel, and French and European Roulette with a single zero. The American game thus has a far higher house edge of 5.26% when compared to its European and French counterparts’ 2.70%.
To this day European, French and American Roulette is enjoyed around the world, and aside from the small changes in layout and a quicker rate of play, the game remains largely the same as its original conception in the 1700s. It’s no surprise then that Roulette has earned itself the moniker of ‘The King of Casino Games’!