Fast Forward: Gambling - The colour of money

Mark Glassman has reinvented the wheel - the roulette wheel. Martin Skegg and Michael Oliveira-Salac take it for a spin. Photographs by Louis Girardi

Down a side street away from the bustling suburbia of Edmonton in London is an anonymous looking office and warehouse complex. Security is an issue here, possibly verging on the paranoid. Then again, this is the place where casinos come to buy roulette wheels, gaming tables and chips, so security is not just important but a professional necessity.

The company also has a striking new development - a fresh spin on the game of roulette, invented by Mark Glassman. Apart from some tinkering, roulette is basically unchanged since the 19th century. Glassman's Rainbow Roulette, which looks like something out of an Eighties Buck Rogers movie, is based on colours rather than numbers. He came up with the idea while at the casinos in Las Vegas (he's been playing the tables regularly there for over 10 years). In the United States, roulette is regarded as a game for small-time gamblers - craps being for the high rollers - and any larger bets are generally placed on red or black (evens bets). Glassman realised that a game based solely on colour could attract more money and bring a greater level of excitement and atmosphere - both of which were lacking.

The wheel on Rainbow Roulette is divided into seven colours, plus black and white. Bets placed on the single-spin colours (around the sides) win when that colour comes up, and lose on everything else. Odds are based on the number of segments a colour occupies on the wheel (for example, red, which occupies seven segments, pays 4-1 while violet, which has just the one segment, pays 35-1).

The multiple-spin section (the stripes in the centre of the table) mean a punter's money should go further than regular roulette, as bets placed here are continually played, losing only when black is spun. The odds in this section are lower to take account of the multiple-play aspect - ranging from evens to 8-1. The only other rule is the double-or-nothing bet which comes into play when the ball lands in white. Players with bets in the single-spin section are asked whether they want to double their original bet for the next spin or forfeit the bet entirely.

Glassman is hoping the game's simplicity and fun element will have some impact in the States, which has seen revenue from gaming increase from $10.4 billion in 1982 to $47.6 billion in 1997. He would like to see it in the UK too, but currently the gaming laws don't legislate for it (apparently, antiquated laws say a game with a wheel needs to have numbers on it), and the Gaming Board is not interested in taking on any new games.

This is a shame because playing Rainbow Roulette is a lot of fun and the relaxed nature of the gaming would appeal to many people who are intimidated by traditional roulette. However, since it shares the same gambling features as roulette, it is still a matter of risk with the hope of gain

With thanks to John Huxley. For more information contact Rainbow Roulette, PO Box 25521, London NW7 3ZU.

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