It’s the dream of people all over the world to walk away from a casino or a slot machine with a life changing amount of money. Making a wager or rolling the dice can also be some of the best fun you can ever have, and this means that gambling is among the world’s most popular pastimes. This exciting, high stakes industry has thrown up some amazing facts over the years – and here are just 16 of them.
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1. Roulette is known as “the devil’s game”
The quintessential casino game of luck has earned this name not because it leads you into temptation but because when you add up all the numbers on a wheel from 1 to 36 the total comes to 666, the number of the beast in the Bible’s Book of Revelations.
2. We’ve got gambling to thank for the invention of the sandwich
John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, was a keen cards player. One night he became so involved in the game of cards he was playing that he insisted on having his food brought to him. He asked for meat to be served to him, placed between two pieces of bread meaning he could play and eat at the same time. Thus, the sandwich was invented.
3. Las Vegas is no longer the world capital of gambling
There was a time when Vegas was the undisputed global gambling hotspot but in recent years the Chinese territory of Macau has overtaken it. In 2017, the revenue it generated through gambling was $33 billion, in the same period the figure for Vegas Strip casinos was $6 billion.
4. Elmer Sherwin is proof that lightning can strike twice
In 2005 the 92 year-old WW2 veteran Elmer Sherwin won the $21,147,947 jackpot playing a slot machine in Las Vegas’ Cannery Casino and Hotel.16 years earlier, in 1989, he had won $4.6 million from a slot in the newly-opened Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip.
5. The world’s biggest gamblers live on an island in the Mediterranean
Of all the countries in the world it’s Cyprus where the most is spent on gambling per capital. Although the population is only 400,000 a total of €2.5 billion is gambled in the island’s 17 casinos each year. That’s €3,125 per person – despite the fact that gambling is technically illegal on the island.
6. Australia’s really not “the lucky country”
That’s the title of a book written about Australia by Donald Horne in 1964 a few years ago but the facts prove slightly different. Of all the nationalities in the world Australians lose more per capita on gambling than anyone else – an average of $1,200 a year.
7. Studying the rules really does pay off.
A group of students from MIT found they could bend the rules of blackjack, between 1989 and 2000 when they used their mathematical skills to card count and win millions of dollars from casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. There was even a film called “21” made about their exploits. We would probably avoid this though in real life, as though it is not technically illegal, it’s frowned upon by casinos – for obvious reasons.
8. The world’s biggest online slots win was a lucky £13 million
Ex-soldier Jon Heywood won a prize 52 million times larger than his stake when he carried off the £13,209,300 jackpot in a Mega Moolah game in October 2015. It’s a record that still has to be beaten.
9. The first slot machine was invented in 1894
A young Bavarian-born mechanic called Charles Fey who was working in San Francisco at the end of the 19th century invented a series of gambling machines including The Liberty Bell. The jackpot of the machine was 50 cents and it was so popular that within a year Fey quit his job and was making them full time.
10. They’re real kings on a pack of cards
The King of Spades is David, King of Israel, for Hearts it’s Charlemagne, King of France, Clubs is Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia and Diamonds are represented by Augustus Caesar, Emperor of Rome.
11. The world’s biggest casino could cover 10 American Football pitches
The total floor area in The Venetian Macau is 546,000 square feet and contains over 4,000 gambling tables and machines. Modelled on the Las Vegas casino of the same name it’s also part of the world’s seventh largest building by floor area.
12.The longest ever craps run came at odds of 1.56 trillion to 1
In 2009 Patricia Demauro threw the dice in a total of 154 times before scoring a 7. It took 4 hours and 18 minutes and won her hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process – although she has always refused to reveal the actual amount.
13. Sean Connery’s lucky number is 17
In 1963 a young Sean Connery was playing roulette in a casino in the Italian Alps. He bet on 17 three times and lost. The fourth time he won and then 17 came up twice more, each time multiplying his winnings by 35. The result: 17 million lire ($200,000) in prize winnings, of course.
14. The world’s biggest online poker game featured 307,000 people.
In September 2009 no less than 307,016 people played simultaneously in an online poker room on a total 42,814 virtual tables – that’s more than the population of Pittsburgh!
15. The casino at Monte Carlo isn’t open to the people who’d appreciate it most
Ever since it first opened in 1863 as a way to raise money for the royal family of the principality the Casino De Monte Carlo has been synonymous with sophisticated gaming. It attracts players from round the world and when one player broke the bank there it became international news. Ironically though, the only people not allowed within its doors are the people of Monaco!
16. If you play blackjack there’s a better chance of winning
Finally, a word of advice for anyone wanting to find the game with the best odds of success. In blackjack the house edge is around 0.5% so for every $10 you wager you’ll average on losing 5 cents. But if you play roulette the house edge can be as high as 5% so you could end up losing 50 cents or more. So best stick to blackjack!