The exact origins of the game of roulette remain a mystery to this very day. Some historians used to joke that roulette is as old as the wheel itself. We know that is not true; but one thing most experts agree upon, is that the game (as seen today) originated in France some 200 years ago, where it has been expanding ever since.
The first mention of the game was in a publication, dating back to 1801. It was a French novella, bearing the name La Roulette ou le Jouer, written by the author Jacques Lablee. He describes a wheel bearing 36 number slots; plus a zero and a double zero slot which were the house numbers. The novella also goes on to describe the basic roulette layout; pretty much the same kind we are used to playing on now.
A casino in Homburg, Germany, was the first recorded gambling establishment (casino opened doors in 1843) to ever implement the single-zero wheel. This was done as a very though-out marketing scheme, to draw crowds away from European casinos, who at the time were playing on double zero wheels only.
But it wasn’t the Homburg casino that made single-zero roulette wheels the standard, which all other casinos had to follow. The biggest contributor in regards to popularizing the single-zero wheel, was non other than the casino in Monte Carlo. After doing some major renovations, the casino owners decided to place only single-zero roulette tables; thus increasing their popularity. And because the casino was so influential, soon the rest of Europe accepted this norm and from there on it became the standard.
New Orleans was the first American city to have ‘French style’ roulette wheel decorating their establishments. This came after a shipment of old French (double-zero) wheels happen to land on American soil. Before that, American roulette wheel had 28 number slots, and three house numbers (0, 00, and Eagle). This game the house the tremendous edge of 12.9%, which made players dislike the game from the very beginning.
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French wheels offered a much better payout (35 to 1 on any straight bet), giving an overall house edge of 5.26%, which is considerably less than the aforementioned 12.9%. Proficient players soon understood the advantage of playing on a 38 pocket wheel; and so the game was established as a official casino element, that no self-respecting establishment can do without.