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The first location in the world you think about when you hear the word 'casino' is probably Las Vegas. That makes sense. The glowing neon city in the heart of America's Nevada desert is known for its gaudy strip and its gambling scene, and it hosts some of the largest and best-known casinos in the world. If you're a seasoned gambler or you know a thing or two about casinos, you might also think of Macau, which is a province of China. Although gambling is illegal on the Chinese mainland, Macau acts independently, and has been steadily growing its casino scene for many years. It's now at the point of equaling or even passing Las Vegas in terms of revenue and popularity.
Ireland probably wouldn’t be close to the top of the lists of countries you’d associate with gambling. It’s a Catholic and conservative country, and although most forms of gambling are legal there, it certainly isn’t a casino mecca on the same scale as the two locations we’ve just mentioned. Why is it, then, that it’s the iconography and imagery of Ireland that appears so often on casino games and slots?
An Irish Empire
The world of slots has moved on a long way from the days where a slot machine was just something that was stood in the corner of a dusty bar or pub. These, the majority of slot gaming happens on the internet. Online slot websites began to pop up around two decades ago, and they've since given way to mobile slots. With mobile slots, players are able to access their preferred slot games wherever they are and whenever they like. A mobile slots website allows a player to engage with their hobby on a train, on a lunch break from work, or even in bed. It's a whole new world of convenience.
Along with convenience has come variety. Slot games are no longer just about fruit or gems. You can play mobile slots based on your favorite video game, favorite movie, or favorite location in the world. There are even slots based on different types of cuisine. The one theme that appears more than any other, though, is the Irish theme.
Some of the world’s most popular slots, such as Rainbow Riches, use the Irish theme as a lure to bring players in. There’s also Leprechaun Song, Irish Eyes, Irish Luck, and many more variations based around the same idea. All of them use very similar visual representations of Ireland as a backdrop, and also on their symbols. You’ll see leprechauns, lucky horseshoes, lucky clover, pots of gold, green fields, and rainbows. But what is it about these stereotypical Irish images that attract players more than any other theme does? Why the Irish theme rather than any of the hundreds of other themes on offer?
The Luck Of The Irish
The answer probably lies in an old and well-established stereotype and cliche - 'the luck of the Irish.' It's a phrase you've probably heard all your life without ever giving much thought as to where it might have come from. Superstition is common among gamblers, whether they're in a real-life casino or they're sat at home playing. They often have lucky shirts, lucky shoes, lucky items, or even lucky times of day to play. Winning at gambling games is all about luck, and so anything associated with luck is bound to play well with superstitious players. Some people even believe that the association between Ireland and luck comes from gambling, but it doesn't. It's actually all about mining.
During the days of the gold rush in California (and elsewhere in America), people from all over the world came to the USA to seek their own fortune from the mines. Not everybody was successful, and the gold rush didn’t last forever, but there was a perception that Irish miners stuck lucky more often than those from elsewhere. The good fortune of the Irish apparently also extended to those who were descended from Irish ancestors as well as those who had traveled from the Emerald Isle to dig out the mines. Far from being a compliment, it was actually a term of derision - miners from America and other nations didn’t feel that the Irish were any more skilled or knowledgeable about gold or mining than they were, and so they put it down to sheer luck.
As for lucky horseshoes - they weren’t so much meant to bring good luck as to prevent bad luck from occurring. Stories about the origins of the idea that horseshoes could be lucky vary, but the version that comes from the most reliable sources says that iron horseshoes were once hung over the door of a property to deter evil green-clad goblins - namely leprechauns - from entering a home and bringing bad fortune and curses with them. Apparently, the horseshoe looked like the crescent moon of the Celtic moon god, and that was sufficient to keep the leprechauns away. The practice was common in much of northern Europe - not specifically just Ireland - more than two thousand years ago.
As we can see from both of the above examples, the idea that Ireland, leprechauns, and horseshoes are lucky is based on old, misrepresented superstitions. It was Irish miners, not Irish gamblers, who had all the luck. A horseshoe might not improve your fortunes, but it might keep evil goblins away from your family. Even leprechauns weren't cute and friendly - they brought curses with them, and wanted to do harm to you and your loved ones! If the slots wanted to display a more accurate interpretation of these myths about luck, they would all be set in mines in the Old West, and there wouldn't be a leprechaun in sight.
So that's how the Irish came to dominate the world of online or mobile slots. It has nothing to do with them being lucky; it's just a consequence of the true meaning of old superstitions being lost or mistranslated over the course of centuries - or in some cases, over the course of thousands of years! If you enjoy Irish-themed slots, we hope this doesn't put you off the idea of playing them. Just bear in mind that they're no more likely to bring you luck than any of the other thousands of slots out there!
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