HomeCultureGaming Roots of the Deep South Reveal European Influences

Gaming Roots of the Deep South Reveal European Influences

The Deep South is famous for many things. Food and music are obvious, but the region’s cultural roots run much deeper than that. Furniture making is one of these less obvious but no less important roots. Up until the 1990s, North Carolina was a national hub for furniture making. Although much of the manufacturing has since been moved overseas, the Appalachians are still regarded as a rich source of materials in the industry.

Another area the Deep South has had a hand in is gaming. Riverboats are a major part of that history, but it’s not the only part of the gaming sector the region has influenced. However, boats on the banks of the Mississippi River are the starting point for a rich history of gaming in the Deep South.

Originally designed as transportation vessels, the riverboats began to switch status in the 20th century. After railroads offered a quicker, more convenient way to transport goods and people, riverboats became entertainment hubs.

A History of Games on the Water

As well as excursions on the Mississippi River, games of chance became a common feature on boats. Table games such as roulette and blackjack quickly became popular and, as the venues grew in size and status, more options were introduced. Famous vessels such as The Casino Queen started to incorporate pai gow, Mississippi stud poker and the type of slots that are now popular online. 

By 1998, local gaming commissions reported earnings of $652 million from 16 riverboats. Unfortunately, when Hurricane Katrina devasted parts of the South in 2005, almost all of the floating casinos were destroyed. Many have been restored to their former glory, but the industry has never fully recovered.

This drop in activity coincided with the rise of online gaming and, notably, modern online casinos give players access to many more games than their floating counterparts. For example, The Casino Queen riverboat in Mississippi has 1,100 slots and 34 table games spread across 34,000 square feet of floor space. In contrast, VegasSlotsOnline has links to 10,000+ games. It’s not necessarily the case that online games are better; it’s that they’re more accessible. Players can read reviews, sort games by type and play via their mobile or desktop computer. Online gaming may not offer the same sense of occasion as visiting a riverboat casino, but it takes less effort. This is one of the main reasons playing on the famous boats aren’t as popular as they once were. 

From Spain and France to Louisiana

From the riverboat era, we get another cultural icon: card games. Thanks to European settlers, there’s a rich and varied tradition of card games across the Deep South. Bourré (pronounced boo-ray) is particularly popular in Louisiana. As described by card company Pagat, Bourré is a trick game of French descent. Alongside its French origins, there’s a dose of Spanish since the name bourré is derived from burro (Spanish for donkey). Why is a donkey relevant? Because a player that fails to make any tricks during the game is referred to as a bourré.

In Louisiana, up to seven players can play bourré. At the start of a game, players are dealt five cards and have the option to play or pass. Those that pass can take no further part in that round. Those that play can keep or discard as many of the cards as they like. Any discarded cards are removed from the game, and the player receives an equal number of cards back from the undealt deck. Play then proceeds with everyone placing cards in the center of the table. Players must follow suit if possible (lay the same suit as the one previously laid). The aim is to lay the highest card of the same suit to win the trick. Play continues until one player is out of cards.

Highland Highlights Embraced by Competitive Carolinians

Another hidden cultural gem of the South is Highland games. Although the strength competitions aren’t exactly a game, they’re certainly a competitive endeavor. Today, when you journey across South Carolina, you’ll find various Highland games competitions. From the Charleston Scottish Games and Highland Gathering to the Greenville Scottish Games, these events are big business. Indeed, the Charleston Scottish Games welcome more than 8,000 spectators every year. As well as the state’s strongest battling in disciplines such as the caber toss and the stone put, there’s music, drinking, food and dancing.

In fact, the Scottish games are as much of a reflection of the Deep South’s European influences as casinos and card games. As U.S. states were forming, games from overseas were adopted into the cultural landscape. Gradually, as they took on a local flavor, new ideas came to light. The end result was a rich history of gaming within the region. Card games are the most obvious example, but there’s a whole lot more. Bourré, caber tossing and the stone put are just a few ways the Deep South has gaming in its DNA.

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