For many people in Singapore and the rest of the world, gambling has already become an integral part of their pastimes in the 21st century. Yet, surprisingly, many do not know that gambling dates back to when humans did not yet know how to read and write.

Gambling has been a popular pastime and a subject of fascination for many artists. It has become a central theme in numerous works of art, reflecting its widespread appeal and cultural significance.

Paintings connected gambling and art because they were the best way to describe the game, the players’ emotions, and the overall atmosphere. Modern and innovative casino platforms are very different from those European gambling games depicted in old paintings by world artists. However, one thing remains unchanged: human values and human nature.

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Without further ado, let’s dive into the riches of gambling themes in art.

Early Depictions of Gambling

The first gambling-themed paintings were created in ancient Rome and Greece. That comes as no surprise as the population of those regions liked to play dice. Furthermore, people of all ranks, from enslaved people to senators, participated in the game.

Gambling appeared en masse in artists’ pictures in the Renaissance era. As the Baroque era arrived, artists persisted in emphasizing entertainment as the primary objective of their artworks. Furthermore, the distinctive style of each era led to the portrayal of gambling in diverse ways.

Caravaggio’s “The Cardsharps”

The work of the famous Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio, “The Cardsharps,” was first shown to the public at the end of the 16th century. This piece of art unveils a specific way of gambling of that period. The Cardsharps is considered Caravaggio’s first independent work. Caravaggio centred his work around frequent cases of fraudulent gambling. People would lose all their money and even their houses as a result of cheating.

The artist showed a young guy playing cards against an opponent who did not intend to win honestly. That is shown by the hidden spare cards behind the cheater’s back and the dagger on his belt, which could be used if the fraud was discovered. Furthermore, the cheater acts with an accomplice, who unceremoniously looks into the victim’s marked cards and shares all necessary information with his partner.

Edvard Munch’s “At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo”

“At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo” is a masterpiece by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, presented in 1892. The picture perfectly conveys the game’s drama and tension at the table. Looking at the artwork, it would be desirable to immediately note its expressionist style, characteristic of the late 19th century in Europe. The artist was inspired to create this work after visiting a casino, where he experienced the whole gamma of emotions.

In his time, Edvard Munch became fascinated by the roulette game. At the end of the 19th century, all popular casinos in Europe had this type of entertainment. In his famous work “At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo,” Munch depicts himself writing down the numbers that fell out on the roulette wheel in a notebook. The casino amazed Munch with the abundance of colourful scenes and subjects that can be observed at the gaming tables. Munch was no less fascinated by the roulette wheel itself.

“I am seized by a kind of fever; I don’t recognize myself. I used to lie down longer, and now, at night, I sleep only a few hours. In front of my eyes, all the time, there is an emerald green cloth table with gold coins on it,” Munch wrote in his diary.

Jean Metzinger’s “Card Player”

The movement of cubism gained popularity in France in the 20th century. Jean Metzinger chose this style of painting to interpret the game of cards. The artwork’s interesting geometric shapes make the viewer see women made up of playing cards. The French artist tried to convey a hidden meaning in this painting. For many people, this work may seem very complex and difficult to understand, but its true meaning is simple: the painting tells us about the complexities that follow gambling addiction.

William Hogarth’s “The Gaming House”

In the middle of the 18th century, the English satirical artist William Hogarth presented a series, “A Rake’s Progress,” which represents Tom Rakewell’s fall from a Richard’s heir to a Bedlam prisoner and patient. The sixth piece, “The Gaming House,” depicts Tom playing roulette in a crowded room full of other wealthy rakes. While the lucky winner grabs the chips, some nobleman is going to bet on his epee and honor. Meanwhile, Tom loses his wig and, symbolically, his mind.

Looking at the painting, it is easy to see how the author has utilized dark humour in his work by adding an expanding fire to the background. This fire will erase all results of both winners and losers and turn their wealth into smoke and ashes.

Contemporary Perspectives on Gambling in Art

Like any human endeavor, the gambling industry influences various aspects of modern life. This connection can be seen even between gambling and art. Contemporary artists often turn to the gambling theme as a metaphor for change or a way of exploring human psychology. Gambling tables, poker players, and casino atmosphere become objects of depiction and symbols of deeper social and economic processes. For example, the painting may encode a critique of consumer society or reflect the ups and downs of economic systems. Interestingly, modern casinos influence not only painting but also other areas of art.


Interior design. Casinos often inspire interior designers, architects and fashion designers who use luxury elements typical of gambling establishments in their creations.

Cinematography. An example is the famous American film about gambling, “Molly’s Game,” released in 2017. This film was based on a real-life story.

Literature. Many writers today devote whole books to gambling themes. The short story “Three Monkeys Tavern” describes poker in detail. It is a fascinating read.

Casinos, as cultural institutions, play an important role in popularising visual art and design, demonstrating how these fields can interact and enrich each other. Therefore, they influence society’s aesthetic preferences and contribute to developing artistic literacy and appreciation, making art more accessible and understandable to a broader audience.


From the earliest known works of art, the influence of gambling is palpable. Artists of these times used their craft not only to depict the entertainment of gambling but also to convey their perspectives on this activity, societal norms, and moral values. Notably, it was in European and Chinese cities where the majority of these masterpieces, rich in historical context, were produced.

Each artist conveyed gambling through the prism of their perception, and each of these works expresses their attitudes towards gaming at different times. Such reasoning shows that the relevance of paintings on gambling as a reflection of human nature and social values will exist today, in 5 years, and even in 100 years. Gambling art is more than just a painting; it represents human nature through colour and shade.

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