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Betting: From The Ancient Greeks To Blockchain
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Betting: From The Ancient Greeks To Blockchain

Gambling has been a part of our culture since the dawn of civilisation. It’s even written into our mythology, as the Ancient Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades cast lots – drawing sticks or straws - to divide up the universe, with Zeus awarded the heavens, Poseidon the sea and Hades the underworld. The Ancient Romans worshipped Fortuna, the goddess of fortune and chance, believing that she could bring them good luck and help them avoid adversity. In civilisations such as ancient Rome, Greece and Mesopotamia, throwing dice wasn’t considered to be a game of chance, but it was believed to be controlled by the gods. These games prevailed through the Middle Ages and archaeological evidence shows that dice have always been popular, with the earliest dice being traced back to 3000 BC in Mesopotamia. It's thought that dice were used to decide the fate of territories and to divvy up the land, such as in 100AD. Then, a dispute between King Olaf of Norway and King Olof of Sweden over the District of Hising, now part of modern-day Sweden, was settled by the roll of a dice. The outcome was in favour of the Swedish King after he rolled double sixes, back-to-back. The Greeks were some of the early people to bet on sporting events during the first Olympic Games. Entire estates could be wagered – a nod to the gambling of the entire city of Athens between Poseidon and Athena - and there was big money to be won – or lost. The Romans were also partial to a spot of gambling, but the stakes were often much higher. Men would bet their possessions and even their freedom on games like dice, knucklebones, board games and chariot races. The Emperor Augustus once lost 30,000 sesterces – a huge amount – at the Colosseum, while the throw of a dice was known to inspire riots. Perhaps due to the events highlighted above, it was eventually decided that casinos were a much safer alternative.

History of the casino

The first European casino, the Ridotto, was established in 1638 by the Great Council of Venice. Open until 1774, it was the first gambling house of its kind and was opened to provide controlled gambling during the carnival season. As casinos became more popular, a new system for managing bets was required. The token system that we know today was introduced for a combination of reasons. They were easier to tally, more secure and encouraged gamblers to increase their spend when compared to fiat currency. While most casino chips are unique to that casino, some Nevada casino chips can be used in other casinos in the area. Honouring other casinos chips is very rare. The casino chip is a lot more complex than most people appreciate and there are many security features which help to keep this alternative form of currency secure. The colours are precise to each casino and the images printed on them are a very high resolution. They may also be marked with a unique UV inlay and some use RFID technology to evade forgeries.

History of sports betting

It wasn’t until the Renaissance era that games of chance were taken away from the gods and risk was scientifically studied. This led to numerous breakthroughs in the field of mathematical probability. This would later form the foundation of risk management used by bookmakers. One of the first people offering fixed price bets was William Ogden, a Lancastrian who became the first person to offer odds on all horses in a race in 1790. He is widely regarded as the “father of bookmaking”. Until then, much of gambling was arranged as a gentleman’s agreement between two or more people. Ogden changed all of this by offering fixed price bets based on all horses in a particular race. He was the first middleman in a bet and therefore is widely regarded as the first bookmaker.

The next logical step

Online sports betting is now prevalent, with the market set to top $50bn in 2018. However, it’s still based largely on the founding principles set out by William Ogden in the late 1750s, namely the clever use of maths and a sense of entrepreneurship. Due to its secure and transparent nature, cryptocurrency is the next logical step for the future of sports betting, but it essentially represents a step back to the Ancient Roman times of peer-to-peer betting. Nowadays there is a need for transparency and fairness, and in utilising blockchain technology, players gain back that confidence that lacks in today's market. No longer is there the concern that odds have been set in the bookmakers favour, possibility of penalisation for winning or wait times for payouts. With everything on the blockchain, winnings go directly to the user through smart contracts, and there is no possibility of interference from the bookmaker. Decentralised systems, cut out the middleman and allow individuals to create their own markets. Cryptocurrency becomes the casino chip and the blockchain is the new betting ledger.

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