Appropriately enough for a word which means “little wheel” in French, the first reference to roulette was in an 1724 newspaper, describing activities in France “Two young men fell out in the street, called la Rue St. Andre, playing at a new game of hazard that is not prohibited and called the Game de la Roulette”.
The first reference relating to England is in a 46-page pamphlet by Amos Docultree which describes as its title states “The ill effects of the game of roulette, otherwise rowley-powley and the fatal consequences attending it particularly in and about Covent-Garden”. This was published in London in 1744. This description of the wickedness of gambling describes a game that had been around for about 50 years in England.
But neither of these early references in English describes specifically the game of roulette as it is currently known. After all it was first played in Paris in the 1790s and became very popular immediately. This game is introduced into the English language by The Times in the 1797 Christmas season with the words as “The game of ‘roulette’ or E.O. was lately attempted to be introduced at a fashionable club in Pall Mall.
And fashionable it became. The game is its current form with the single zero for the bank became a real winner, first appearing in Bad Homburg in Germany introduced by a Frenchman Francois Blanc who later took the game to Monte Carlo when the German government prohibited gambling.
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