Gambling existed from medieval times at all societal levels in various forms. The freedom of engaging in these games was hugely dependent on the social hierarchy state of the individual. Gambling sustained state and church criticism. A traditional community life element included contests that were accompanied by general revelry, drinking and heavy betting.
Bearbaiting and cockfighting in the blood sports range were popular with peasantry sectors. In other social spectrum areas, horseracing pastimes were confined to the upper classes. Horse racing and ownership operated almost exclusively in private affairs for royal patronage systems and monarchs. They organized races and entered horses to compete, personalizing them with assigning their names.
Lotteries initiated in the 15th century, and were popular but arbitrarily illegal in most cases. A widespread gambling form was dice playing and it was the standard game of the medieval period. All society sections inclusive of the clergy-despite many bans and prohibitions, pursued it. The Saxons, Romans and Danes introduced many varieties of games and playing styles, most of the games fell into two types, moving board counters (like checkers), or games that were based on dice throws. The eastern Europeans introduced playing cards toward the end of the 13th century; it became a leisure activity from an elite pastime that was popular with all social classes.
Professional painters, who received patronage from aristocrat households, handcrafted early cards on ivory and copper, wood and card. The first woodcuts on paper were, in fact, playing cards. Gambling was a status marker and leisure pursuits amongst prestigious groups. Games and cards were symbolic of cultural climates and social orders surrounding them. The printing press development in the 15th century played a crucial role in the history of cards and transformed them from aristocratic play things to mass-produced products that were enjoyed by every rank of society.
The state and church continually outlawed or limited gambling despite its growing popularity. Designed to restrict excesses of the general population resulted in legislation being targeted at the poor and therefore uneven in application. Prohibitions imposed from Catholic Churches were aimed at steering people away from idle activities and were pragmatic towards organized exertion like sports. The aim was to rally a workforce into the indigenous army, which served as an advantage to the violent Middle Ages climate.
Card playing was banned on workdays since 1397, and was further criticized. Criticism of gambling continued and the emphasis shifted to effects of disorder within rational societies aimed mainly at the mass of the population, the poor. Legislation in the 17th and 18th centuries attempted to eradicate gambling from the mass populations, by fiscal means of imposing taxes on both dice and cards, charging huge horse races entrance fees and increasing prices of lottery tickets.
European countries also introduced laws that limited public gambling to take place in licensed premises and restricted license granting to upper classes and nobility members. The poor were restricted to playing illegal, unlicensed tavern gambling while upper classes were free to a variety of games. In recent years there have been a diagnosis of gambling addiction condition, which is a progressive illness, it initiates as a recreational activity then becomes destructive with mental, spiritual and physical consequences. The main symbol is loss of control through tendencies towards bigger risks.
Gambling in excess causes depression anxiety, muscular tension, headaches and fatigue. Many addicts even engage in criminal activity to fund the habit.