As with most forms of gambling, the exact origins of roulette are debatable since every country from Italy to China lays claim to primitive roulette games. But as the name implies, most people credit France for developing the modern version of roulette, or “little wheel“ according to its French meaning.
Getting into the specifics, French mathematician Blaise Pascal created the roulette wheel in the middle of the 17th century. Interestingly enough, Pascal wasn’t even trying to create any sort of gambling device, but rather a perpetual motion machine. And while Pascal never quite found the answer to the perpetual motion device, the roulette wheel still lives on with his legacy. Of course, there have been some major upgrades to the wheel/game since then, which we’ll get into below.
Paris – The City of Roulette
The first modernized roulette wheels started appearing in Paris casinos towards the end of the eighteenth century. By 1796, roulette wheels contained alternating colors, and both the 0 and 00 spaces; this version of the wheel is still commonly used in American casinos today.
The game was wildly popular throughout Paris, and several big-name novelists wrote about roulette’s popularity such as Jaques Lablee did in La Roulette, ou le Jour. Little did people know though, but roulette was about to get even more popular with another change to the wheel.
Invention of European Roulette
By the middle of the nineteenth century, roulette was spreading across Europe, and even into American casinos as well. With the game spreading to different parts of the globe, some people made their own changes to roulette – including Francois and Louis Blanc, who ran a casino in Homburg, Germany.
In an effort to bring more visitors to their casino, the Blancs removed the 00 from the roulette wheel, which effectively reduced the house edge from 5.26% to 2.63%. Eventually, this more popular roulette version came to be known as European roulette, and it offers players a much better chance at making profits than American roulette.
Roulette in America
Roulette first made its way to the United States in 1800, when French settlers began playing the game in New Orleans casinos. For decades afterward, American casinos continued to employ the 38-number wheel with both a single and double zero.
However, there were some other interesting developments in American casinos, such as when a 31-number wheel began showing up. But this wheel didn’t last long since it gave the house an immense house edge with 0, 00, and American eagle symbol slots all in the house’s favor.
Fast forward to today, and the European and American roulette wheels are what’s commonly seen in casinos today. European roulette is especially popular in online roulette because it’s more widely available to players who don‘t have access to it in land-based casinos.