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Franzika Huber -Gambling – Pain, Pleasure and Play


THE LETTER 16 (Summer 1999) pages 9-26


Introduction:  The Passion for Gambling


Last  Wednesday was  the official start  of the  Football  World  Cup 1998 – different nations such as England, Italy,  Brazil, France, Germany, Argentina,  Holland  (just to name a few of them) are   in  a  state   of excitement. Statistics, theories, speculations, hopes  and  guesses are circulating: who is going to make it this time? This  is  the  heyday  of calculating and  betting- not only via the official football  pools, but also in innumerable  private  bets  and  estimating contests. These days, homo ludem forcefully displays an old and  universal passion, the passion for gambling.


As a matter of fact, hardly any other cultural activitv can boast such a long tradition as  can gaming and gambling. Board games already existed at the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt, at about 3500 B.C At around the same time the first dice were introduced, also in Egvpt. Predecessor of the die was  the astragalus, the heelbone of a deer, dog or sheep. Already prehistoric cavemen kept collections of coloured pebbles and astragali, which may have been used for some kind of primitive counting and as toys. Rolling the dice, throwing sticks, pebbles or stones – all these were ancient means of organising chance events. Such ‘games of chance’,  as they would be classified today, were not only played for pleasure and recreation, but  also served as means of divination. Men invented mechanical random devices to consult the gods. For instance, in some   primitive cultures the  guilty were detected by drawing marked pieces of wood or straws of unequal length; the drawing of lots was also…

Gambling – Pain, Pleasure and Play

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