Obviously, we here at GambleOnline love online casinos, sports & entertainment betting and poker, however, not everyone shares this joy. We’ve talked about religious views of gambling on our blog before, but what about how the law has looked at gambling through the years? We take a look at punishments for gambling throughout history.

Gambling in the Middle Ages 

Yes, people have been gambling since the middle ages—While their gambling activities didn’t necessarily resemble modern-day online casinos and sports books, the ‘meat & bones’ were similar. Also, civic authorities and the church disapproved of gambling, so if people in medieval times did gamble, they had to be careful about it.

Dice & dice games, for example were enjoyed by people in the middle ages. Archaeological digs have recovered dice made from bone. Rather than simply offer punishments for gambling, there were harsh punishments for those accused of gambling. In the 15th century, dice game cheaters were punished by using the sharp corner of the dice (remember, they were made of bone) and piercing it through the accused’s hands.

Another interesting point of this punishment, was to signal to other dice players that person was a cheater, so they wouldn’t gamble with them.

men gambling playing cards in 15th century
Etching with men playing cards in the 15th century.

A punishment used in medieval times was to tie the gambler to a post and attach playing cards and dice so citizens could gawk at the gambler, and see who the gambler in their town was.

In old, medieval Livonia (a region on the eastern shore of the Baltic sea) gambling was forbidden by civic authorities and the church, but that didn’t stop Livonia people from gambling.

In old German language, the word for ‘gambling’ was ‘dobbelspil’, and citizens were not allowed to practice dobbelspil. In this era, people were often given a fine (versus the more humiliating punishments we share above) and their names were recorded in a ledger as ‘de dabbler’. Fines could be more severe if gambling was combined with other crimes, like organizing gambling activities or grabbing a knife while gambling.

More severe punishments were certainly given, too—If you used weighted dice, you would be sentenced to death. Guess the only thing they hated more than gambling, were cheats.

In Europe, during the Crusades, gambling was permitted, but only by ‘high-ranking’ officials. High-ranking officials were considered knights, princes or princesses, dukes & duchesses, and anyone else ‘higher on the ladder’ than a knight. Unrelated to punishment, but an interesting gambling anecdote none-the-less, is that European Knights brought something back from the Crusades—Arabian stallions they used to breed racehorses, which led to a popular pastime for European citizens.

Modern Day Gambling Punishments

We reviewed how gambling was punished throughout history, but how have people been punished for gambling in modern times? Let’s take a look at some of the most unique, or outrageous punishments given for gambling or betting.

NFL Betting: The Crime & The Punishment

Some of the harshest punishments or consequences for modern-day gambling offenses include huge fines, and in some cases, suspension. Josh Shaw was suspended from the NFL for betting on multiple football games in the 2019 season, and although a probe into the matter didn’t say whether or not inside information was used, or that the game was compromised in any way by Shaw’s bets.

Illegal MLB Baseball Betting

Pete Rose is well-known for his suspension from Major League Baseball for betting, but also for lying about it. He was banned in 1989 for betting on baseball games, but claimed he never bet while he played—However, it was determined that he actually bet nearly everyday in the 80’s when he played.

Illegal gambling rings in Seoul, Korea, Russia, and the United States have all been shut down in recent years, but no dice-stabbing here—Punishments for these infractions are sort of what you’d expect—Fines, arrests, and court appearances.

Arthur Crowson

Arthur Crowson writes for GambleOnline.co about the gambling industry. His experience ranges from crypto and technology to sports, casinos, and poker. He went to Douglas College and started his journalism career at the Merritt Herald as a general beat reporter covering news, sports and community. Arthur lives in Hawaii and is passionate about writing, editing, and photography.

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