Through a good part of human history, there was no such belief in chance—it was believed that all events reflected the will of gods, spirits, or guiding deities.
Various ancient religions routinely practiced a kind of casting of lots or dice-like devices in order to discover whether gods or spirits agreed with the course of actions determined by humans (e.g., whether a battle should be started on a certain day or month).
As of 2010, all but two states (Hawaii and Utah) allowed some form of gambling. The Medicalization of Gambling: Problem and Pathological Gambling VI. Gambling is therefore a type of a game in which financial loss or gain for the players is part of— or even the main point of— the results of the game.
Gambling as a government-sponsored activity exploded in the late 20th century, and will clearly increase in the 21st century. What are the social costs of problem gambling, and do they outweigh the social and economic benefits of increased state-sponsored gaming? Games can be played exclusively for the financial aspects, or financial aspects can be introduced to games that otherwise do not have gambling as their primary intention (e.g., betting on races or professional sports).
When, however, significant gains or losses are made part of the activity, gambling can become a storm center of debate that has strong religious involvement.
The significant moral and social issues surrounding the tremendous growth of the gaming industry in the United States (and worldwide—Australian gaming is, per capita, much greater than in the United States) include concerns about the social costs of so-called addicted or pathological gamblers, of organized crime, and even of the equitable distribution of gaming earnings.Lotteries are perhaps the most widely attested form of large-scale gambling in Western history, and state-supported lotteries that are recorded in medieval Europe as early as the 15th century were intended to help raise funds to pay for military fortifications.It is hard to separate the history of gambling in human civilizations with the history of the very idea of chance.Although gaming brings in critically needed funds for often impoverished peoples, the total amount accounts for less than a quarter of the gambling industry revenues nationwide each year.A study written in 2005 found that 30 states are home to more than 350 tribal gaming establishments, operated by over 200 tribes that have decided to pursue gaming as a strategy for economic development (Light and Rand 2005).Games of chance, often accompanied with serious consequences in winning or losing, have been a part of human civilization for as long as we have written records.In Gerda Reith’s (1999) important study, she notes that gambling of one kind or another has been an aspect of human play from the dawn of civilization.Such an attitude toward the foolishness, rather than the immorality, of gambling can be heard in a 1732 poem by Henry Fielding: It is in the 20th century that the notions of sinful gambling and irrational gambling began to be replaced with a medicalization of gambling as an illness that required intervention and therapy.Clearly, such attitudes were based on those cases where serious amounts of money were lost by those hardly able to handle such losses rather than on the minor or moderate amounts lost by casual gamers who fl y to Las Vegas or Atlantic City in the United States for a few days of vacation.A good part of the ancient and medieval opposition to gambling was based precisely on this notion that gambling was engaging in a kind of secular or antireligious consulting of higher powers.It is only when the very notion of random chance begins to be a widely held idea that gambling moves from being considered an irreligious activity to one that is considered irrational because of the randomness of such gaming, and, as an understanding of random actions and chance increased, so the awareness of risk in games of chance became a growing feature of the arguments of those who opposed this activity.