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  1. Modern society often looks back on ancient civilisations with wonder and this wonderment uncovers fascinating lifestyles of people who lived thousands of years ago. According to historians and archaeological discoveries, gambling is one of the oldest practises known to man. Records indicate that people in ancient civilisations enjoyed it so much, it had to be outlawed and controlled. Playing games that involve chance and luck dates back to Aztec and even Mayan cultures and anthropologists track gambling all over the globe. We still play games of chance that originate from primitive China and early civilisations used dice throwing, or something similar, to resolve quarrels and serve justice. Historians believe the origins of wagering are divinatory with the casting of marked sticks that later spurred betting on the outcome. Regardless of why humans started gambling, the practice and love for games of chance are engraved in our origins. We look at some of the wagering traditions of bygone cultures and some that stood the test of time. Aztec and Maya Games Ancient Mesoamerican culture is one of the most studied periods, and scholars constantly discover fascinating traditions and practise within the Aztec and Mayan tribes. Some of the information passed through the hands of Spanish investigators and modern discoverers unveiled other prehistoric details. ✓ Patolli Recorded by Spanish discoverers, Diego Durán and Bernardino de Sahagún, who witnessed the games during their travels to the region in the 16th century, Aztecs played patolli and wagered on the game. According to Durán, Aztecs loved the board game so much that today we would consider it a highly addictive game. Sahagún indicated that the Aztec king did his best to regulate the game in an attempt to prevent major distractions for his people. They described it as a social game as multiple players could join in on the fun and onlookers quickly gathered when a patolli mat made its appearance. As most Aztec reference stems from the civilisation’s capital, Tenochtitlan, it seems that this was where the game was most popular and widely practised. Sometimes players would call on the god of games, Macuilxochitl, to bring them favourable play. We could describe patolli as a board game, and tools for the game included pebbles, bean dice, and a game mat. They also traced the board on the ground if a matt wasn’t available. The board had 60 or 70 places where the pebbles could move along and the aim was to move pebbles from one end to the other. Results or moves were determined by tossing dice made of dried beans. The Spaniards both agreed on the fact that these wagering games sometimes became heated and one described heads being split open. Durán noted that problem gambling arose for some who wagered clothes off their body and gambled themselves into servitude. They found evidence of the game in other Mesoamerican tribes, denoting the popularity of this forgotten board game. ✓ Ullamaliztli Known as ‘The Ball Game’, nobles in Aztec tribes enjoyed this high-speed game and Mayan tribes played the sport as well. For Aztecs, though, this was a way of life and a central part of their culture. Known as ullamaliztli, the ball game was second only to the Aztec god, Huitzilopochtli, and every settlement and city had a dedicated ball court. The Aztec ball game was not just a means of entertainment, it carried political and religious meaning as well. They made the ball from hard rubber, which had a rough surface with the potential to injure players. For this reason, deerskin guards covered the areas players would use to keep the 9-pound ball in the air. Highly skilled players took part in the game where they may not drop the ball, and contenders mostly finished a game with many injuries and bruises. Apart from keeping the rubber ball, named ulli, in the air, players had to get it through a stone carved hoop on either side of the court. Because of the difficulty of this goal, a ball passing through a hoop would mark the end of the game. Six markers along the courtside presented other opportunities to earn points and rules included fouls for touching the ball with the wrong part of the body, like hands and calves. Gambling was a big part of ullamaliztli and spectators staked almost anything on the outcomes. Ornate feathers, land, and even children were acceptable wagers, while some sold themselves into slavery to pay off their gambling debts. The Aztec ball game has a darker side to it as well, where blood sacrifice came into play and they sacrificed entire teams to keep the sun moving. A modern and civilised version of the Aztec ball game exists today and Siniloan women and children play it as a pastime and sport. Roman and Greek Gambling From the ‘throw of Aphrodite’ to landing Venus with knucklebones, gambling has deep roots in Roman and Greek history and some believe these cultures had the greatest influence on wagering as we know it today. ✓ Roman Board Games and Races Roman gamblers enjoyed playing board games that often involved dice made from ivory, bone, glass, and other materials. Their die resembled the modern cubes with six sides and the simplest Roman games entailed rolling dice for the highest total. A board game called ‘the game of twelve’ was very popular in Roman culture and is comparable to backgammon. They played the game with three dice, fifteen pieces - called ‘men’ - for each player, and a board carved out of stone. ‘Game of Brigands’ was a strategy game that incorporated coloured glass pieces and the player who captured the most pieces was dubbed the king. Sounds familiar, right? Romans used knucklebones in a game of chance where they tossed four bones marked 1, 3, 4, and 6 to land the highest combination. The highest throw was a ‘Venus’ and oddly enough, the lowest throw included all aces and they dubbed it the ‘dog’. A well-known section in the Bible describes how Roman soldiers cast lots to divide clothes belonging to Jesus. More popular than wagering on games, though, was race betting. Romans were passionate bettors in chariot races. Some event venues could house 250,000 spectators and Romans originally viewed race days as religious events. Gamblers bet on the outcome of races, and this hobby dates back to 753BC, and it is said that some used magic to cheat during chariot horse racing. They outlawed gambling for a few centuries due to gamblers causing havoc, increased violence, and even riots, but today Italy is one of the more successful gambling regions in the world. ✓ Gambling Gods in Greece According to Greek mythology, deities Hermes and Pan were avid gamblers. Some folklore tells the story of Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus settling the universe split by throwing dice. Others say the gods drew straws to settle the dispute. Greeks had a few variations of gambling games, but dominant ones included tossing coins, rolling die, betting on animal fights, and board games. Punters still believe that a double six dice roll is lucky, but in ancient Greece, it was the winning combination and carried the name ‘throw of Aphrodite’. Greek dice were 20-sided, icosahedron, and inscribed with Greek letters or numbers and sometimes, they used these when seeking divine answers. Similar to the Romans, Greek gamblers played a board game resembling backgammon, but they also bet on simple games like Par Impar Ludere. Here, a player would hold several objects in his hand and the opponent would guess whether it’s an odd or even number of items. Spectators would bet on the outcome of the game. They placed similar bets on coin tosses and chicken, dog, and birds fights were very popular. The Greeks believed that their gambling fate lay in the hands of the gods and winning was a sign of godly favour. Notably, many Greek writers and philosophers had a negative view of gambling and labelled it as a plague, which is probably true as the Greek government outlawed the practice for some time. Gambling Origins in the East A game that many punters still enjoy today is Keno and this famous card game dates back to 2,000 years ago in China. The gambling game comprises lotto-type playing cards with 80 characters (or numbers) and most Chinese provinces offered the game named, baige piao. Much like state-owned lottos in modern society, the province governor permitted games to take place for his share of the profit. Keno arrived in the US in the 19th century through travellers from the east and they say the game inspired lotto and bingo as we know them today. Most lotteries offer variations of Keno and it is a popular game among many cultures. The Chinese also invented a gambling game that involves 144 tiles, called Mahjong, where players need to make the best possible hand with 14 tiles. Also referred to as Asian Gin Rummy, China currently prohibits their citizens from playing this game. Pai Gow dates back to over 1,000 years, and this strategy game is often mistaken for dominoes. Modern versions of this ancient game include mobile adaptations like Pai Gow Poker. The Human Nature of Wagering Gambling dates back centuries and clearly, the practice of taking a chance with a wager is deeply rooted in our nature. Looking back on how ancient civilisations went about their gambling practices can teach us a few things and one fact remains: When it becomes too serious, take a break. Gambling should always be fun and approached responsibly to ensure its enjoyment for generations to come.
  2. Have you noticed those adorable cat figurines waving at you in your local Asian restaurant or supermarket? Did you know the cat has a name and a long, interesting history? In Japanese, these cats are called Maneki-Neko, or "beckoning cat." They're often associated with hospitality and fortune, but there's more to the story than that. Would you like to learn more about this Japanese lucky cat and how it can improve your luck? Read on! The Story of Maneki-Neko The history of Maneki-Neko dates back to the 18th- and 19th-century Edo period in Japan. Legend has it that a wealthy lord named Ii Naotaka got caught in a violent thunderstorm. He saw a cat beckoning to him from a nearby temple and quickly moved into the temple from beneath a tree. Seconds later, a bolt of lightning hit the tree he'd been standing under! Moved with gratitude, the Lord Ii befriended the cat and the temple priests, sharing his fortune and prosperity. Other versions of the story feature an old shopkeeper or a Samurai warrior, but the moral of the story is always the same—a cat that brings good luck. Maneki-Neko Today The legend of Maneki-Neko spread and became popular in China, Thailand, and other Asian countries. It's also known by names like Lucky Cat, Welcoming Cat, and Waving Cat. Today the cat is a common sight in restaurants, hotels, markets, and private homes. If you're a Pokemon fan, you'll also be interested to learn that the Meowth character is based on Maneki-Neko. Variations of the Japanese Lucky Cat Traditionally, Maneki-Neko is a calico cat waving its left paw, but there are many cultural variations. 1. Paws A waving left paw is a sign of welcome for visitors and customers. A waving right paw is thought to invite money and luck into the home or business. If you see a Maneki-Neko with two raised paws, it's both very welcoming and very lucky! 2. Colors A white cat symbolizes happiness and good things to come, while black cats ward off evil spirits. A gold cat (not surprisingly) is connected to wealth and prosperity. There's also a green cat for good health and a red cat for success in romantic relationships. 3. Lucky Items You might occasionally see a lucky cat holding: a coin a fish a mallet (small hammer) a marble a gem a radish or gourd In Asian cultures, each of these items is associated with fortune and good luck. Do you see the common theme here? Japan's Neko Cat: Will It Help Your Luck? We may not know the exact story behind Maneki-Neko's origins, but we do know that the cat has a deep connection with luck. From saving ancient Japanese lords to greeting you at your favorite Chinese restaurant, Maneki-Neko has a rich and fascinating history. So the next time you see one waving at you, now you'll know why! How has your luck been at the casino lately? Could a Neko cat of your own help to turn your luck around? Invest in your own Maneki-Neko and then play of Maneki-Neko slots games, we covered all the best video slots themed with this lucky cat.
  3. When you think about large casinos, your attention may immediately focus on some of the more popular casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. While these cities are known for their gaming action, the reality is that most of their gaming resorts pale in comparison to the size and grandeur of the top venues around the world. Whether you are new to gambling or you are a high roller, these are the largest and most magnificent venues in the world, and they deserve your attention for your next big trip. Casino Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal (Image credit: casino-lisboa.pt) 1. Casino Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal If you are looking for serious gaming action in Europe, Casino Lisboa is the place to go. The gaming space in this enormous resort covers 165,000 square feet across two floors. It includes 26 table games and 1,000 slot machines. When you need a break from gaming, you can take advantage of the many other amenities and attractions on-site. For example, you can catch a live performance in a large auditorium that boasts a triple-ring rotating stage. This venue also has three impressive restaurants and a contemporary art gallery. MGM Grand, Las Vegas (Image credit: mgmresorts.com) 2. MGM Grand in Las Vegas MGM Grand is the largest gaming resort in Las Vegas and the only one that is large enough to make this list. If you visit MGM Grand to enjoy its gaming action, you will have more than 170,000 square feet of space to explore. This area boasts 200 table games, 3,000 slot machines and a dedicated poker room for non-smokers. As a travel destination in its own right, it is also home to two theaters that host elite performers regularly, three hotels along with elite villas, a nightclub, a spa, a huge pool, a sports arena, 15 restaurants and more than two dozen boutiques and shops. The Sands, Macao (Image credit: sandscasino.com) 3. The Sands in Macau The Sands is only one of five huge gaming venues in this city. Its gaming space covers 229,000 square feet, and it holds more than 1,000 slot machines and 200 gaming tables. It is notably known for its towering ceilings, which create a grand ambiance. Adding to the fun, this venue also is home to a theater, a health spa and nine restaurants. Rio Casino Resort, South Africa (Image credit: riocasino.co.za) 4. Rio Casino Resort in Klerksdrop, South Africa At the Rio Casino Resort, you can appreciate a jovial, carnival-inspired ambiance as you explore more its 266,330 square feet of games. It hosts poker tournaments regularly, and it gives you 24-hour access to its 274 slot machines and 12 table games. This venue offers something for all of its guests to enjoy with amenities like a bar, two unique restaurants, an arcade for the kids, a luxurious hotel and a private salon dedicated exclusively to high rollers. Ponte 16, Macau (Image credit: ponte16.com.mo) 5. Ponte 16 This is the second Macanese venue to make the list, and its gaming space covers 270,000 square feet. It boasts a waterfront location in the Inner Harbor, two VIP rooms, 307 slot machines and 109 tables. Its many games include fan tan, face-up blackjack, 3-card baccarat and American roulette. During your stay, you can feel pampered at a French-themed luxury hotel. You can also enjoy a fitness center, a spa, a pool area, a gallery featuring live performances, a foot massage station, a children’s play area and numerous bars and restaurants. Wynn Macau (Image credit: wynnmacau.com) 6. Wynn Macau This Wynn-brand casino is located relatively close to Ponte 15, and it is slightly larger. Across its 273,000 square feet, you will find slots, table games and other gambling hot spots. In addition, the Wynn is home to a pool, an art gallery, a spa, more than two dozen shops, four elite restaurants and stunning visual arts shows that combine music, fire and other elements. Foxwoods, Connecticut (Image credit: foxwoods.com) 7. Foxwoods in Ledyard, Connecticut This is the second of three venues in the United States to make the list, and it is owned and managed by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. The venue is broken into six unique casinos, and they collectively cover more than 340,000 square feet. The gaming centers have 3,400 slot machines and more than 250 tables for a wide range of games across the six venues. In addition, you can take advantage of 55 restaurants and bars, a spa, a shopping center, zip-lining, bowling and more. City of Dreams, China (Image credit: cityofdreamsmacau.com) 8. City of Dreams in China The next venue on the list is considerably larger than Foxwoods. City of Dreams sits in Macau, and its gaming space encompasses 420,000 square feet. Its spacey, futuristic vibe is only one of its many qualities that set it apart from others. It is home to several VIP lounges with unique themes, more than 1,500 slot machines, 450 gaming tables and 30 bars and restaurants. It also has more than 175,000 square feet of boutiques and shops, four hotels, a nightclub, four spas, a water theater, an art exhibition space and more. Venetian, China (Image credit: venetianmacao.com) 9. Venetian in China The Venetian is the largest gambling venue in China and throughout Asia. Out of more than 10 million square feet of total space, approximately 530,000 square feet is dedicated to gaming activities. There are four game spaces with exciting, individualized themes, and these collectively hold 800 gaming tables and more than 6,000 slot machines. The venue also includes a 39-story hotel, numerous retail and dining areas, a huge special events center and a beautiful Venice-inspired decorative scheme. WinStar World Casino, Oklahoma (Image credit: winstar.com) 10. WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma Across Europe, Asia and beyond, all casino venues pale in comparison to the WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma. It is owned by the Chicksaw Nation. This venue’s gaming space covers 600,000 square feet, and it boasts an additional 600,000 square feet that has a wide range of additional amenities and attractions for every high roller to enjoy. At the WinStar World Casino, you will find an 800-seat bingo hall, 100 table games, more than 7,000 slots and a poker room dedicated to non-smokers. Additional hot spots at this venue include two event centers that offer more than 11,000 seats collectively, a golf course, a spa, a pool with a poolside bar, a sports lounge, a nightclub and 17 restaurants.
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