The roulette game is very much a French game. Not because it has its roots in France, but because in France the roulette system as we know it today was developed and found its way to other systems. The other systems are the European Roulette and the American Roulette. French Roulette system still exists, but is mainly limited to the famous casino of Monte Carlo, that will show up a few times more in this article. French Roulette is named after a French diminutive for little wheel (rouler = rolling) and it has two major elements, namely the roulette wheel and the roulette table. In most casinos the wheel is outside the arrangement and players are standing around the table. But in the French Roulette arrangement you have the table and the wheel behind each other and the players are placed to the left and to the right of the table and the wheel. As said this placement is typical for the Casino of Monte Carlo and in a few minor casinos in France.
Rumors are persistent that the French mathematic Blaise Pascal invented the wheel of French Roulette, in his search for the ‘perpetual mobile’ a machine that would be able to move on without using energy sources, other than its own energy. The story us not true, but it is very well possible that Pascal gave his review on the game and the position of the numbers on the wheel. There are many other games that can be seen as the historical base of French Roulette and the wheel or at least had their influence on the game. French Roulette was found in a 1796 novel of the French author Jaques Lablee, who described the game as it was performed in the Palais Royal in Paris. Lablee described a wheel with two pockets for the house. Those are the zero pockets, of which one is used in European Roulette and two are used in American Roulette. The novel of Lablee was not the first source for the existence of French roulette. In fact in Canada (Québec) it was already mentioned in a law that prohibited a number of games, such as dice, hoca, faro and… roulette. And this was in the year 1758! What we know about the zero pockets in the wheel, they were originally one in red and one in black, just as all the other numbers. In the next century the green color for zero pockets was introduced. It was quite clear that the standard wheel was equipped with two zero pockets. But from here we have a rather clear view on developments, which would at the end lead to the (nearly) demise of French Roulette. The next important development took place in 1843 in Homburg, Germany although it was introduced by two Frenchmen, the Blanc brothers. They introduced a whole new wheel with only one zero pocket instead of two. This single 0 style roulette wheel was introduced in the Spa Casino in Homburg to compete with the other European casinos. The density of casinos in Europe was not very high and the rich and famous had to travel far to visit one. The choice for a casino was very much depending on other facilities in a town and of course by the attraction of the casino games as they were offered. At the end of the nineteenth century another attempt was made to introduce a new wheel, described by the American author Hoyle.
This was a wheel with two zero pockets and an American eagle, with furthermore only 28 numbers. Very profitable for the casinos, but it didn’t succeed and only few copies of this wheels are left as a target for collectors. In the meantime the game roulette spread out over the American continent and in Europe, realizing a popularity that remained till our days and is still growing thanks to the rise of online casinos on the internet. The most unreliable factor was not coming from the rules of the game or from the players but from governments, who have a common history in intervening in casino games, were they in brick and mortar casinos or online since the late twentieth century. We saw the 1758 law in Canada, but in France some forms of baccarat were already forbidden then and in the 1860s a new coupe was there when the German government decided to forbid casino games. The brothers François and Louis Blanc returned to France where they were warmhearted welcomed by the sovereign royalties of Monte Carlo who were dreaming of the place as the heart and soul of European gambling and tourism by the rich and famous and we can see that it worked out very well. In Monte Carlo the French Roulette was settled with one zero pocket in the game, which became the European standard, while in the United States, Canada, South America and part of the Caribbean the American system is still holding position. The difference between French Roulette and European Roulette is more a matter of the lay-out of the game than anything else. And of course there are a number of French people who dislike the term ‘European’ being convinced of the idea that European civilization is in fact a French matter and without the French the roulette system as we know it wouldn’t be there at all. We let the French their own conclusions and join the army of casinos and online casinos that use the term European Roulette instead of French Roulette.
From the end of the nineteenth century not much happened at the casino front in Europe. In the United States however a new town came up, build up in the middle of the desert. It was called Las Vegas and would grow out to the most important casino town, till it was eclipsed by the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau. But that only recently happened for till the 1960s there were not many casinos in the world but then they came up like mushrooms in a humid forest and started to flourish all over the world.