Gambling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment. It dates as far back as 3000 BC. You know what comes along with a game that has a long history? A ton of weird and kooky facts.
And that’s because humans are both of those things.
In this post, I’ll be sharing 10 of the kookiest facts about gambling from all around the world. Save this post for future trivia nights. But I’m sure they’re all memorable enough to know by heart.
1 – Mind Your Own Business
A Northern California woman tried to teach her husband a lesson about how the lottery was a waste of money. Her name was Glenda Blackwell, and she was sick of her husband spending money on losing lottery tickets.
Glenda went to her local lottery retailer and purchased a ticket to show her husband how wasteful playing the lottery really is. Little did she know she would have to eat her words.
Mrs. Blackwell bought a winning lottery ticket. And guess what? Her ticket was worth $1 million! Maybe this is why one should never argue with their spouse about the little things.
Obviously, both of the Blackwells are now lottery supporters. You know what they say about marriages, right? Couples that lotto together, stay together.
2 – Walk the Walk
This kooky fact is on brand for the early 1800s. Did you know that one of the most popular sports in the world was pedestrianism?
Pedestrianism was basically distance walking. As dull as this sounds, people actually bet on the sport. Some of the competitions were to see who could walk 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours. This was considered an athletic feat.
So, the math on that breaks down to a 42-day sporting event. It’s also excruciatingly slow. You’re literally observing whether someone can walk a mile an hour.
As you can guess, controversy arose as wagering became more popular. The sport enforced so many rules that wagering on it eventually became obsolete, and it stayed an amateur sport.
3 – Watch Your Words, Florida
In 2013, Florida accidentally banned all smartphones and computers. Whoops! That was not the intent of the state legislators who wrote and passed the law.
Lawmakers were trying to shut down internet casino cafes that offered predatory gambling games that mirrored real money slots and bingo games.
They included wording that also banned smartphones and computers. The verbiage was, “The ban defines illegal slot machines as any “system or network of devices” that may be used in a game of chance.”
As you can see, a system or network of devices could include any of our favorite devices. Their phrasing was far too broad. This point was brought to their attention when one of the defunct café owners hashed it out.
4 – Are You Smart Enough, Eh?
Canada is our gentle neighbor to the north. Gambling is legal, because each province gets to decide on what they allow. Most have casinos, a lottery, and other games of chance.
But where they differ is on their sweepstakes rules and laws. If you win a sweepstake in Canada, you are required to answer a math question.
This kooky loophole is to keep the sweepstakes winner from being considered a gambler. There are also different tax brackets surrounding gambling winnings in Canada. Sneaky, sneaky!
5 – Hell on Wheels
My dad always called my little brother’s driving style, “hell on wheels.” I think we would be taking that comment back if he knew the real meaning behind the phrase.
“Hell on wheels” comes from the band of makeshift gambling halls, brothels, and saloons that followed the builders of the Union Pacific Railroad.
The railroad started its journey west from Iowa all the way to Portland, Oregon. The societal norm of the mid-1800s was much more conservative than today’s world.
Hell on wheels was how the more religious public started to refer to this roving trove of vices. Some even fainted when they saw the famed “ghell on wheels” pull into their town.
6 – Zapped
Nikola Tesla is the famed physicist and inventor of the less popular AC current power. He’s also the namesake of one of the most innovative electric car companies on the market, Elon Musk’s Tesla Motor Companies.
He was a troubled and obsessive person. He struggled with mental illness and gambling addiction. He had to drop out of his course studies at the Austrian Polytechnic University in Graz.
Tesla actually had a severe gambling problem that led to a nervous breakdown and the eventual departure from his studies. He would battle these demons for the rest of his life.
One of the world’s greatest minds died alone and penniless in a New York City hotel room. Smarts don’t always win.
7 – Science, Man
Unfortunately, even with today’s modern medicine, Parkinson’s disease is an ailment with no cure. But there are tons of researchers and companies working on treatment.
One of those companies made an exciting discovery when they were in the human trial phase of their testing to cure Parkinson’s disease, also referred to as PD. But their drug for the treatment of the debilitating illness made an unusual side effect.
The strangeness doesn’t end there. The patients that wanted to gamble had no prior interest in gambling and felt the urge to gamble in excess. Science is kooky sometimes.
Obviously, the drug didn’t pass the trial phase. The researchers were relieved when they found that the affected patients lost their need to gamble as the drug left their system.
8 – Adapt and Overcome
Russia made gambling illegal, for the most part, in 2009. But a native engineer made it his mission to learn how to beat slot machines.
He took his expertise to the United States and played at the Lumiere Place Casino in St. Louis, MO. He wasn’t cheating. He just beat the code for the program that runs most of the machines.
No one noticed until the casino’s accountants saw that some machines were paying out more than they took in. This is called a negative hold. Basically, this person figured out how to beat the odds on the slot machines.
He didn’t hit any big jackpots. The accountants found lots of smaller payouts that ended up adding up to around $21,000.
This Russian genius has given multiple casinos the chills. Thankfully for them, they managed to find a way to fix the code to keep it from happening again.
9 – Winner on the Court Who Lost His Shorts
Iranian tennis star, Mansour Bahrami was quite the charismatic player on the court. He is famed for his skills and his on-court showmanship. He apparently was a kick to watch, especially because of the way he played and reacted to the game.
When he moved to France, he found the cost of living was astronomically higher than his home in Tehran. Mansour needed to find a way to increase his bank account balance to cover his higher living expenses. Gambling was legal in France, so why not?
Mansour lost everything he had in his first night at the casino. Unfortunately, his luck on the court did not translate to luck in the casino.
10 – How Gambling Impacted Scandinavia
There’s something about Scandinavian countries that is just so wholesome. They’re clean. They take care of their populations. They are polite. They make great modern furniture.
In fact, Scandinavian countries hold top rankings for the happiest people in the world. What gives? I want that, don’t you? Maybe it’s their approach to gambling.
All gambling is managed and owned by Veikkaus Oy (VO). VO is a branch of the Finnish government that oversees all forms of gambling. VO donates all their profits to social and environmental branches. How cool is that?
Here is the breakdown of the distribution of profits:
- 53% to the Ministry of Education and Culture for improving on sports and physical education, science, arts, and youth work.
- 43% to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health for improving health and social welfare.
- 4% to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for improving on horse racing.
Maybe we should steal a page out of their book. Oh, and some sleek furniture while we’re at it!
Bonus Fact – Luck Isn’t Forever
Archie Karas went to Las Vegas with 50 bucks in his pocket. He managed to turn that $50 into over almost $40 million. It took him two years to make this fantastic gambling profit. But he lost it all under a month. Think about that one!
Gambling makes people do kooky things. Even so, I hope you enjoyed this list of funny and interesting gambling facts from around the world. I will be sharing more kooky gambling facts soon. Stay tuned!