Gambling and gaming equipment



2015-06-26 10:59:06

Items of gambling and gaming equipment are objects and devices created specifically for use in the gambling industry.

They can range from poker chips and sets of dice to roulette wheels and gaming tables.

The term can also include devices designed to help card cheats such as card prickers and sleeve holdouts.


Some collectors choose to concentrate on items connected to a particular game, or specific objects such as antique poker chips.

These are popular collector’s items as their designs vary from casino to casino, and their materials can range from early ivory and clay chips to the plastic ones of today.

Over 1400 varying ivory chip designs are currently known to exist.

People who collect items of gambling and gaming equipment will often also collect related items such as vintage books on card games, historical photos and ephemera related to casinos.

The market for antique gaming tables such as poker tables or roulette wheels is a specific niche, but the tables are predominantly antiques and often extremely valuable. The most sought-after are those which were once used in a famous (or infamous) establishment.


Gambling has existed in one form or another for the greater part of human history.

Ancient gambling

It is first recorded in China in 2300 B.C, and was prevalent in the societies of Ancient Greece and Rome.

At the height of the Roman Empire, lawmakers decreed that all children were to be taught to gamble and throw dice and the Emperor Claudius designed his carriage to allow dice games while travelling to his official duties.

Playing cards

The idea of blackjack and poker evolved from the practice of shuffling paper money in China around 900 A.D. This evolved into card playing, which was consequently brought to Europe via the Mameluke Empire.

The first sets of cards were decorated with intricate patterns, but these were replaced by designs featuring figures from the Royal Court by the Spanish during the 1400s.

Playing cards made their way to France during the 1500s, and one of the male figures from the pack was replaced with an image of the Queen. This pack of cards became known as the ‘French Pack’, and served as the prototype of the 52 card deck that remains in use today.

The practise of playing games of chance was widespread across Europe. During the 14th century King Henry VIII (an inveterate gambler himself) outlawed gambling when he discovered that his soldiers spent more time gambling than improving their battle skills.

European colonists brought gambling with them to the new world, and a passion for betting and wagering manifested itself across America in the form of horse racing, cock-fighting and state-sponsored lotteries (which began in 1793). By the 1830's, more than 420 lotteries nationwide offered prizes and lotteries remained a popular fund-raising method throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

The legendary saloons of the Old West were home to professional gamblers and sharpers alike. The stories of the period resound with tales of bloodshed and gunplay for honest card players and cheaters alike. One of the most popular areas for collectors is gambling equipment from this period, and poker chips, playing cards and tables are all sought-after.

20th century gambling

By the early 20th century social attitudes to gambling began to change, swayed by both the corruption of many state lotteries and the atmosphere of fraud, criminality and danger that became associated with the gambling world.

By around 1910 the vast majority of gaming houses and casinos across the United States had closed due to new legislation outlawing gambling, but in 1931 the state of Nevada legalised it once more in an attempt to raise money during the Depression.

Reno and then Las Vegas became the homes of vast casinos, and the modern era of gambling as we know it today was born.

The world’s most expensive gambling/gaming equipment

The world’s most expensive piece of antique gambling and gaming equipment is a Cuban mahogany and satinwood gaming table built for the exclusive Albemarle Club in London which was opened in 1874 and closed in the early 1900s.

The table, containing all its original gaming boards and pieces, was bought by one of the club’s members and resided for over 100 years in an English country house before reaching the hands of an antique dealer, M.S. Rau Antiques of New Orleans.

It was valued at $263,500.

Gambling/gaming equipment dealers

Main article: List of gambling/gaming equipment dealers

Share on social media
Write a response...

The bookmarklet lets you save things you find to your collections.

Note: Make sure your bookmarks are visible.


Click and drag the Collect It button to your browser's Bookmark Bar.

collect it