History Behind the Games That Entertain Niagara Visitors

There is nothing quite like gaming away to your heart’s content while the Falls crash and swirl below you

Whether you hail from the US or from north of the border in Canada, taking a well-earned break to visit the Niagara Falls is close to the top of everyone’s bucket list.

When most people arrive the first thing they do is flock to the Falls themselves to ogle the metric tons of water that launch down into the pools below, with many choosing to pay extra to see the natural wonder of the world from the decks of the Maid of the Mist.

However, once the novelty of the crashing water has subsided and nighttime descends, many visitors turn to the casino resorts that dot the river’s shore to play their favorite games.

Here we look at the history that brought such games to the banks of the Niagara River.

Blackjack – Stick or Twist in the Hunt for that Elusive 21

Of all the classic games that continue to beguile visitors to Niagara Falls, there is one that perhaps gets played more consistently than any other, and that is Blackjack.

With the game originally growing from French roots, it is perhaps no surprise that, thanks to the nearby Québécois connections Niagara has, the game built a strong following in the town, both among locals and those tourists who visit for the weekends.

But where did this popular game truly first come to life, and how are modern casinos like those perched above the Falls pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the game?

What is clear is that during the 16th and 17th centuries there were games right across Europe which closely resembled modern Blackjack. In England, there was a game called Bone Ace, while in France a game by the name of Quinze also bore a striking resemblance.

Nevertheless, the earliest version of blackjack as we know it today was the Spanish game called Trente-un, mentioned by Cervantes in his book Rinconete and Cortadillo. Ultimately, though, it was the French game of Vingt-un (Twenty-One) that launched Blackjack into the mainstream, with the game only being given its current name when it reached American shores.

Of course, today’s casinos down by the Falls have taken the game and revolutionized it further, with some running games of Blackjack Switch and Spanish 21, the game old Spanish scribes used to play!


People rush to the Falls both for the dramatic scenery and the gaming options that are available


Roulette – Wheely Good Fun

Hot on the tail of Blackjack at Niagara is Roulette, where the spinning wheel and all its numbers and colors have people coming back for more throughout the day and night.

The origins of this game can be found in the translation of its name, with Roulette meaning ‘Little Wheel’ in French.

It is generally accepted that French mathematician extraordinaire Blaise Pascal was the game’s founding father, although it is thought he drew inspiration from two other games that were popular at the time in the 17th century, Even-Odd and Roly Poly.

Due to the game being frowned upon by authorities in France, two more Frenchmen by the name of Louis and Francois Blanc fine-tuned its rules and tested them out in Hamburg, Germany, from where it blossomed into the world-renowned game it is today.

Slots – Spinning Reels Day and Night

While classic table games are still all the rage in Niagara, everyone will have noticed the inexorable rise of slot machines, many of which dot the walls of establishments all around town and have themes to match the time of the year, from Halloween scares and frights that match the festive spirit, to Christmas festivities.

Slots are very much an invention that was born and bred in the US, with the first machine made by New York based firm Sittman and Pitt, although it should be noted that it was not electronically powered.

The first of its kind to run on electricity was the famous Liberty Bell machine. So now when you see a yellow bell on the slot machine you are playing, you know it is an homage to the original machine invented by Charles Augustus Fey.

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