hist-games: Medieval gambling . . .

Thierry Depaulis depaulis at club-internet.fr
Tue Mar 2 01:43:02 PST 1999

On Mon, 01 Mar 1999 Michael Burridge wrote:

>Specificly, I wanted to know how far back "gambling houses" date, were
>they might of been found, what sort of games were played in them, as
>well as any other available details about how they were typically
>laid-out and run.  I'm not even sure what the proper name for them was.
>  Anyway, if someone could provide me with this information (or even
>provide me with another direction in which I could continue my research)
>I would be very grateful.  Thanks in advance, folks.

"Gambling houses" did exist in medieval Europe as early as the 13th
century. (I mean *legal* gambling houses. Illegal ones have been in
existence for centuries.) Gambling houses were made legal in Castile in
1276 by King Alfonso El Sabio (the one who compiled the famous Book of
Games, 1283). Such houses were also opened in many Northern-Italian cities
between c.1250 and 1400, until Bernardino of Sienna started his fight
against them. There were public gambling houses in some German cities
(Mainz, Frankfurt), and the Burgundian Low Countries - what is now Belgium
and the Netherlands - had authorized gambling places.

On the contrary the kingdoms of France and England had laws against all
forms of gambling, and an ordinance was passed by Louis IX of France
against the making of dice and the places were dice were played.

There were not so many many gambling games to be played there: dice games,
'quackboard' (English) or 'dringuet' (French) (rolling the dice into a
chessboard and betting on black/white). Playing cards did not become
popular before the end of the 14th century. Loteries are later.

The medieval gambling houses had different names according to the local
languages: they were called 'tafurerias' in Castilian, 'baratterie' in
Italian, 'brelans' in French, 'Spielhäuser' in German, 'dobbelen schoole'
("schools of dice") in Dutch.

There are publications which deal with gambling in the Middle Ages, but
none in English.

Thierry Depaulis
130 rue Lamarck
F - 75018 Paris

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