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Gaelic Gambling History with Irish Charm and LuckBy Shane Addinall Mar 17, 2022For St. Paddy’s Day, we explore Irish traditions and uncover when gambling started in this northern region. How lucky are Irish people and what charms can punters wear for an extra fortune on this St Patrick’s Day?
Wherever you go, whatever you do, may the luck of the Irish be there with you! This is one of the many well wishes that include Irish luck and with St Patrick’s Day celebrations upon us, we delve into gambling history from the Emerald Isle. Are Irish truly lucky, and why do people say this?
We look into the origins and history of Irish gambling and the lucky charms players and gamblers believe in. From dressing in green to finding that extremely rare four-leaf clover, Irish folklore has deep roots in the global gambling community and many Game developers look to the Celtic inspirations from Ireland when creating colourful themes.
Some traditions extend beyond Celtic influence, and we unveil the surprising origin of a famous Irish saying.
The Emerald Isle’s Gambling Legacy
When someone wishes the luck of the Irish on another, they may not always have gambling in mind, but this Northern island has centuries of ties with games of chance and wagering. Historians and archaeologists determined that citizens of this lush green island enjoyed gambling before the arrival of the Romans and Christianity. The discovery of gambling-related artefacts brought them to this conclusion, with some being remarkably similar to dice, which date back to the Iron Age.
During the Roman period, this region had its fair share of chariot racing and the wagering that went hand-in-hand with this. Manuscripts dating back to the third century speak of these types of events playing out in The Curragh area. Although gambling was present during these early ages, records lead us to believe that during the 16th century, the practice of horse racing caused a gambling revolution in the country.
Thanks to the Irish agricultural community’s natural affinity for producing top-class racehorses, the popularity of race days, and later the involvement of British horse racers, the sport became a top choice for gamblers in the region. While colonised by the English, gambling became an extremely popular pastime among townsfolk, as there were no lawmakers to keep a watchful eye.
Once the Irish Republican Army claimed their country back, the new Irish government prohibited some forms of gambling. The street betting act came into effect during 1906, and once the Irish Free State reigned, the Betting Act of 1926 came into force. Since then, Sportsbooks need a licence to accept bets from Irish gamblers.
Most of the 20th-century regulations included sports betting and later a Lotteries Act came into effect. During the iconic 80s, one of the country’s most famous brands arose and today Paddy Power is still one of the largest gambling operators in the industry. Since then, online gambling has entered the landscape and Ireland is one of the countries moving toward a regulated market.
Irish Luck in Gambling and Beyond
A popular saying in gambling and other areas is to have ‘The Luck of The Irish’. One has to wonder why the Irish are seen as lucky to begin and when did this novelty start? The truth of the matter is that it originates from another part of the world and the original use was a bit offensive. Strange how these things go.
Let’s uncover some sayings and charms tied to luck in the Irish traditions.
The Luck of The Irish
Many believe this famous saying originates from America and dates back to the 19th century during the gold rush. According to sources and a Professor of History at the Holy Cross College, many of the mining success stories in this era included miners from Ireland or those with Irish-American blood.
According to Associate Professor Edward T. O’Donnell, the saying may at first have been an insult from envious local miners who insinuated that it was by pure luck that Irish enjoyed successful mining. The Professor wrote a book titled, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History and recorded that those who referred to ‘Luck of the Irish’ meant these miners weren’t smart enough to succeed by skill. It must be sheer luck.
Thanks to the cheerful and resilient disposition of the Gaelic nation, the saying gained a positive tone and is today seen as a good wish.
Celtic mythology includes wonderful legends and superstitions. One of the most legendary fables from this region is that of the magical leprechaun. This fairy-like creature can easily be the country’s mascot, and every gambler hopes to find what the leprechaun guards with his life. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Fables tell of these water-dwelling creatures that grow approximately 2 to 3 feet in height and love to prank those who seek their treasure. Described as the cobblers of the magical fairy world, which is supposedly the origin of their wealth, leprechauns usually show up wearing green and sporting a long beard. Irish folklore tells how it is lucky to catch a leprechaun as their captor can trade the leprechaun’s life for their pot of gold and win three wishes along the way.
✓ The Shamrock
Three-leaf clovers are basic tree-foil plants, but the Irish believe these tiny plants are sacred. The belief stems back to the Celts who recognised 3 as a holy number representing all valuable treasures in the world. A while later, St Patrick introduced the Christian faith to Ireland and instead of using foreign ideas, he incorporated known Celtic symbols to explain details from the Bible. St. Patrick linked the three leaves from the clover to the divine trinity and explained that the leaves represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Shamrock is Ireland’s unofficial national flower and throughout the country’s history, it represented many things. From religious icons to a symbol of unity in rebellion. The clover is synonymous with Ireland and, in the gambling industry, any Irish-themed game without it would be incomplete.
✓ Four-leaf Clovers
These are so rare to come across that some could think it is impossible and possibly fictitious. Studies show that the chance of finding a four-leaf clover is 1 in 10,000 and yet many hold on to the possibility of spotting one. Luck tied to this rare variation of the Shamrock dates back thousands of years ago when they believed it wards off evil spirits and provides protection against sorcery.
It is said that when you find a four-leaf clover, you should hide it in your shoe for good luck with gambling, and the cross-shaped plant will only bring luck if you keep it a secret. St Patrick used the fourth leaf of these rare finds to explain God’s grace to Christians in Ireland.
✓ A Horseshoe
Along with their love for horse racing, the Irish also believe that a horseshoe brings luck and money to those who find a used shoe. Ancient folklore explains how mischievous fairies cannot come close to steel, which is the material that horseshoes are made of. Therefore, a horseshoe protects the owner from the little creatures.
One of the most debated topics with good luck charms is their positioning, and the horseshoe falls into this category of superstitious confusion. Some say they must mount it with the open side up to catch all the luck, while others say it should face downward to shower whoever passes underneath it with the luck it brings.
✓ More Lucky Irish Charms
Other Irish traditions to practice this St Patrick’s Day include wearing green, looking for lucky pennies, and spreading some Irish luck with well wishes. Apart from green coming from the shamrock, it is said that leprechauns can’t see those who wear the colour, so you may just be able to catch one for his gold. Should you spot a penny laying about with its face up, be sure to pick it up and luck will be on your side.
What is the worth of luck if you can’t spread some cheer and hopefully rub some off on those close to you? Do it as the Irish do:
“May the luck of the Irish lead to the happiest heights and the
highway you travel be lined with green lights.”
Be sure to wish your loved ones well on this St Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick and Irish Luck
Every year, communities all over the world unite on the 17th of March by dressing in green and enjoying some Irish traditions. St. Patrick’s Day celebrates one of Ireland’s patron saints and wearing o’ the green originates from a few events and beliefs from Emerald Isle. Green became a political and cultural symbol during the 18th century and the belief remained. Some say the green represents the lush green hills of the Irish landscape. Regardless of its origins, the colour remains a staple for St Paddy’s celebrations and for gamblers it represents prosperity as the colour of money as well.
The celebration itself dates back to the 5th century when St. Patrick died, on 17 March, 461. This patron saint of Ireland was an apostle and introduced pagan Celts to Christianity. St. Patrick’s links to quintessential Irish symbols like the shamrock tie in with his preachings of the Christian faith, making green the apt colour for celebrating his life.
Many attribute the celebration’s widespread success to the number of Irish pubs all over the world. Apart from donning the colour green, most believe that a drink of Irish beer, known as Guinness, or Irish whiskey is a must on St. Paddy’s Day. Punters will recognise these symbols on Irish-themed slots which bear many symbols akin to the celebrations.
This year, software developers present gamblers with even more options when celebrating St. Paddy with a wager or two. If you are keen on spinning some reels in celebration of Ireland’s patron saint, take a look at the following Irish-themed slot games. More fun slots to try include Super Rainbow Megaways, Irish Eyes 2, and Clover Bonanza.
Are Irish Punters Really Lucky?
Is there really something to the luck of the Irish, or is it merely a saying from envious miners? Some gambling events point to the fact that those with Irish blood may indeed have luck on their side. An Irish punter won a record-breaking €4.8 million on a slot machine, which was the highest ever at that time. Another Irish gambler won the biggest EuroMillions Lottery jackpot and took home a massive €115m in July 2005.
Regardless of the historical hardships the people of this country faced, the Irish have a warm and welcoming nature and this is possibly why they say: If you’re enough lucky to be Irish, you’re lucky enough.
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