The casino and its icons have provided a lot of symbolism to popular culture. Be it the king, queen, and jack of the playing card or the face of a die, they can be found in everything from fashion to tattoos. Yet these images did not just appear. While some came out of the blue and stuck, others were formed over hundreds of years. Below, we look at the history of some of the most common casino symbols.
The first slot machines were invented by Charles Fey and used icons that had been taken from playing cards as their symbols. The symbols were changed to fruits, often denoting what treat would be available to the winner as they were the reward instead of money. Even the iconic bar symbol came from this time, as it was the logo of the Bell Fruit Bar Company that created the machine. The others like the 0 and X simply denoted you hadn’t won. Of course, when cash payouts were allowed, these symbols stuck.
The classic slot icons have made a resurgence in recent years. As the online casino industry has grown, games have become more complex with new symbols and bonus rounds, but this has also led to many players wanting a more traditional experience. The result is games like the Action Bank slot, which harken back to more simple but no less enjoyable experiences. They use traditional bar symbols with 0, X, and bar as the main pictures on the reels.
Playing cards, in some forms, have been around since 1000AD when the Chinese were known to have used them. Variations have also been found in Europe from the Middle Ages, which used suits based on goblets, hockey sticks, gold coins, and swords, as covered by Atlas Obscura. However, the origin of the modern suit is a little easier to trace.
Italian court cards from the 14th-century feature kings, queens, and a knave, so it is almost certain they are the ones that became popular in the modern game. These were exquisite hand-painted pieces, so only available to the upper echelons of society. As printing came into being and was more affordable, it could be mass-produced and sold for less money.
Suits most probably have their origins in Germany. It was here that bells, hearts, leaves, and acorns were introduced to reflect the rural nature of the country. Using wood cutting and engraving, the country became a hub for card making, sending them to the rest of Europe.
The distinctive black and red roulette wheel is also a common site in casinos across the world. The first wheel was created by the physicist Blaise Pascal, who was trying to make a perpetual motion machine, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. However, Francois and Lois Blanc popularized the black and red numbered wheel we know today. They did this for King Charles III of Monaco, who wanted the game to attract tourists to his principality. They also invented the green zero section to improve the house edge.
All these games still have strong ties to their roots and this is unlikely to change any time soon with some players preferring the traditional experience.