Gambling in Greece: from Ancient Times to the Present Day

Gambling in Greece: from Ancient Times to the Present Day.

Ancient board game
Ancient board game, found in Knossos (c. 1600-1500 BC)

Nowadays, gambling it’s a widespread activity throughout the world. There are casinos, where you can bet your money on your favorite roulettes or card games, in almost every Country. There are physical places where you can bet on sports or musical festivals or even presidential elections.

Talking about Greece, the history of its gambling starts in ancient times and it goes on and on to the present day, where even online betting is a thing since 2012. You can even find the best platforms to place your bets on CasinoNet, the best Greek site for betting platforms comparison.

But where did all this betting fever start? Well, we have to go back years and years in time, back in Ancient Greece.

The origins of Gambling.

To discover the origins of Gambling, we have to clarify something first: every ancient culture had their own gambling methods and street games where people could bet their money on different types of wagers. In Ancient China, for example, they used some kind of tiles to play a rudimental game of chance. Some ancient books suggest that those tiles formed part of a lottery-type game.

Some years later, during the 9th Century, also in China, appeared the first gaming cards. We don’t know precisely what were the rules of the first games they played, but we know they had nothing in common with the standard 52 cards deck we have today.

What we know for sure is that the history of gambling goes hand in hand with the history of civilization. It seems like people have always enjoyed spending some of their time betting with friends or strangers, gambling whatever were the means of exchange of their times.

You could play with dices, toss a coin or bet on a fight!

Even if there weren’t huge spaces completely dedicated to gambling like today’s casinos, the ancient Greeks had their own way of gambling.

Ancient books and stories mention the presence of various games based on dices or coin-tossing. Other sources suggest that even the game of Poker may also have begun in Ancient Greece, alongside with China and Persia.

Today we certainly know that Greeks loved gambling and it was hugely popular in their culture. We can see from statues and paintings that people used to place their bets on fights and races, in a rudimentary form of sports betting. After all, even Greek Gods used to gamble: Hermes and Pan are said to have placed wagers, while Zeus, Hades and Poseidon found an interesting way of deciding how to split the world: by drawing straws!

One of the most popular games of the time was Head and Tails. It was first played with shells, but then the introduction of the coin made it definitely easier. The game is just like what you imagine: you had to pick a side and had 50% of chances you choose the right one after the coin was tossed.

Another popular game, maybe even simpler, was called Par Impar Ludere. A person held in his hands a number of astragali, which were small sheep or mutton bones, and his opponent just had to guess if that number was even or odd. Some studies revealed that maybe people just won the opponent’s astragalis after the game ended, implying that this was a game of fun rather than a gamble. But later, when money became the main vehicle of exchange, probably they begun to use them instead of bones.

Being very religious in their own manners, ancient Greeks believed everything that happened in this world was related to the Gods. Even throwing a simple dice was considered to be in the lap of Gods.

Modern gambling: what changed and what remained the same?

Even in ancient times, there were people who strongly called for a regularization of betting. Some philosophers believed that gambling, left unchecked, could lead to the destruction of civilization. It is no surprise then that, nowadays, gambling, especially in Greece, although permitted, remains under strict state control.

The OPAP (Greek Organization of Football Prognostics) maintained the monopoly over most forms of gambling since 1958 until the 2000s. It was state owned until the financial crisis of 2008, after which they decided to sell part of the company to private citizens.

Online gambling came a little bit later in time. It was declared legal in 2012 and it will be under the monopoly of the OPAP until 2030. That is mostly because the Greek government has always been strongly against gambling but, after the rapid growth in size and number of online casinos and bookmakers, they couldn’t pass the opportunity of gaining some money out of it.

Most big cities and islands tend to have a few casinos in them, but they are still not very widespread compared to what one would expect. That is because of the monopoly we were talking about earlier. Many of the existing casinos are state owned and there still exist a maximum number of slot machines permitted in the Country. What’s maybe worse, is that OPAP also have the monopoly on those slot machines, so you would have to buy them from it and even pay it a cut.

Among the most famous casinos of the country there is, for example, the Mont Parnes Regency Casino of Athens. It dates back from the 1960s and it still is one of the most luxurious places in Greece.

According to the Greek National Tourism Organization, Greek’s oldest casino is a casino in Loutraki, a seaside resort on the Gulf of Corinth, built in 1928.

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