How Culture Impacts Play: Insight from Casino Expert Trude Berge
Last Updated: June 21, 2023
Many activities span language barriers and international cultures. One of the best examples is the power of music, which can help connect people from all walks of life. Gambling is another tradition that is steeped in many cultures.
Some historians have stated that the first evidence of gambling dates back thousands of years to ancient Greek times, but this is only the first possible mention.
The chances are it goes back much further, as competition and making money from competition are two things that are hardwired into a lot of human genealogy.
“Gambling culture has changed dramatically, even in the short span of 30 years, now that there's such easy, widespread access to the internet via mobile devices, it's now the main route of gambling for people all over the world.” – Trude Sørensen Berge.
Trude knows all about the international crossover appeal of specific casino games. Trude is an avid poker player, a “bad habit from England” in her own words, so she spends a lot of time with local poker teams.
Poker is probably the best example of how culture impacts play. Although there's no disputing the immense popularity of poker, there are also many different types you can play. Depending on the area of the world you're in, other casino games might dwarf it in popularity.
European Gambling Culture
There are various cultures in European gambling, and it is essential to segment the different attitudes within the continent to get a good view of how broad and varied the appeal is.
The United Kingdom has a big gambling culture, with digital casino companies providing a lot of entertainment for players in the country.
However, the UK is unique in a gambling sense as it also has a high number of physical bookmakers and casinos, and they're much more entrenched than in other parts of the continent where the vast majority of gamblers often use digital casinos.
Places such as Monte Carlo are gambling hotspots and appeal to high-rollers and guests who prefer the luxury lifestyle, so that provides an entirely different charm and aura to casino gaming.
When we think of Monte Carlo, we think of the gambling culture that was cultivated and championed to look so slick in classic James Bond movies and TV shows.
Not only is it a culture, but it acts as an extension of the healthy society that is perpetuated by the whole aesthetic of Monte Carlo. On the other hand, United Kingdom casinos are associated with a noisier atmosphere and a night out.
Europe's Gambling History
Modern-day games such as blackjack and roulette are popular in land-based and digital casinos. However, you may not know that these games originated in European casinos.
While some historians believe both games originated in France, some believe that the game of blackjack first originated in its most primitive form in Italy before really taking off in French casinos.
Both games have been around for 300 years, and they continue to remain popular as they have been able to effortlessly move online, expanding and adapting to today's mobile-centric world and culture.
Games such as craps, which tend to have more of a following in America, have struggled to effectively move online given that the game revolves around throwing dice across a table surface, and it can be challenging to replicate this digitally.
This is one aspect of culture that has negatively impacted play in certain casino gaming areas. However, this has been counterbalanced by the steady rise in popularity of other digital casino games, such as slot machines, poker and roulette.
Gambling Culture Further East
If you move further east across the map, gambling laws are much more restrictive, with plenty of countries outlawing it altogether.
In Asia, countries such as Thailand allow some gambling, but a lot is restricted; in Cambodia, although gambling is illegal, many people still participate in street gambling, such as dice games. So, although they can face criminal prosecution, the gambling culture still exists.
Macau in China is one area where gambling is legal, and it is the Las Vegas of the East. Although Las Vegas may have more notoriety and presence in the gambling world, Macau has overtaken it in every conceivable way.
The money that flows through Macau is astonishing, and illustrates just how sizeable the market is.
It is clear that despite the range of gambling laws, there's still a market in most countries for people looking to play casino games or more primitive forms of gambling, such as dice games.
Craps is one casino game that is essentially a table version of dice, which has a lot of popularity in Las Vegas but doesn't experience quite the same levels of activity in European casinos where roulette and blackjack are the two big favorites.
American Casino Gaming
America has a long, detailed and exciting history of gambling and casino gaming. Las Vegas has always acted as the centerpiece for American gamblers, generating billions of dollars in revenue every year. Prior to the internet, it monopolized the American gambling industry.
You can gamble in Vegas if you want to, but you could also turn it into a weekend, explore the dazzling lights of the strip and watch some of the world's greatest entertainers and sporting events.
When it comes to gambling in America, Las Vegas is very much an anomaly. While you can gamble in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and a handful of other locations, gambling is less widely available than in Western countries such as the UK.
In certain American states, gambling is forbidden. This includes all types of casino gaming, sports betting and lottery competitions.
However, having a specific area where people can gamble when they want to is probably a good balance between total prohibition and unregulated mayhem.
Digital casinos are finding it easier to navigate some of the harsh regulatory environments we see in America, and it is quickly becoming the dominant way to gamble for American citizens who have the funds to do so.
Does Prohibition Work?
Whenever an activity is outlawed, it can drive the market underground. When America introduced prohibition back in the 1920s, although many people agreed with banning alcohol, it drove the whole business underground.
Ultimately, this put money in the pockets of organized criminals. In addition, the illegal speakeasies that popped up all over America served alcohol that wasn't licensed by regulatory bodies, creating an underbelly of an illicit economy.
Overall, it didn't have a positive economic or societal impact, and the rules lasted less than 15 years after the initial law change.
Gambling is a different market, and street games of dice have existed worldwide for hundreds of years. Some experts argue that gambling creates issues, and it'd be naive to suggest that only some aspects of society are prone to problem gambling and the societal and health issues it can result in.
However, banning an activity that a lot of people can enjoy in moderation without causing harm can be a complex set of rules to enforce. Many examples show that regulation and compliance:
- Ensure that companies operate within strict guidelines and provide a service within a rigid framework.
- Deliver a service and tax dollars for bodies that provide appropriate and acceptable oversight.
Gambling Within Specific Cultures
Although some research has suggested that gambling is more prominent in certain cultures, it can be challenging to say this with any certainty.
It seems that a country that has complete access to casinos, with looser legislation, tends to have a more extensive customer base than those that don't.
While this might seem obvious, it is a simple case of supply and demand, highlighting that having the facility is the key ingredient rather than someone's specific cultural identity.
While there might be specific aspects of gambling that are unique to cultures, the overriding theme is that millions of us enjoy gambling and can do so in moderation. The only thing that really changes is our location and the type of casino games we have access to.
For example, if you would rather play a game of craps in the casino, some people play dice games instead.
Those who can't travel to a physical casino but have permission to gamble online will often find their chosen games easier to access from home on their mobile devices, whether using a mobile phone or a tablet device such as an iPad.
This is the most important cultural change we have seen in the casino industry; now that digital casinos align gambling culture and mentality across international borders, more and more companies will be aiming at a global digital market than a physical, localized market.
This is arguably the most prominent cultural shift we will see in gambling for at least a century, or perhaps longer.