To understand what started betting on sports one has to first examine the historical past of sports gambling in America. The USA has a long history of allowing some kinds of legal gambling and also illegal betting to some extent. Political control and scandals concerning gaming interests have led to certain backlashes that have resulted in prohibition or regulating sports gambling. Standards and laws pertaining to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose explains these adjustments in law as three waves. The 1st wave was in the colonial era that lasted till the mid 1800s, the 2nd wave started at the end of the Civil War and lasted till the early Twentieth century and also the 3rd wave commenced while in the Great Depression and it’s still continuing.
Throughout the Colonial Era, diverse attitudes were enforced towards gambling. Puritan attitudes were adopted towards gambling and possession of dice, cards, gaming tables etc were banned. Later on it was allowed as long as it wasn’t a calling or trade except for moderate and innocent recreation. Settlers brought with them views that said gambling was merely a harmless past time. The frontier spirit encouraged the appeal of gambling as it involved high risk, high expectations and opportunism.
Eventually all colonies used lotteries as a solution from economic problems as well as benefit the colonies. It became a civic responsibility and profits were utilized to create a number of the first prestigious universities, build churches and also libraries. Lotteries continued to be popular right to the early Nineteenth century. Horse racing was also popular and the Long Island built the very first race track in 1665. Casino gaming began to emerge slowly as roadhouses and taverns began to allow card games and dice.
The Lower Mississippi Valley became an organized and legitimate gambling area in 1800s. The mighty river featuring its riverboats became a major trade avenue for both wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans quickly gained recognition as being the gambling capital. During the 1830s southern settlers turned against professional gamblers who were held responsible for carrying out crimes, debasing morals of society and endangering streets. During 1800s there seemed to be increasing attack of gambling especially lotteries and whenever operators absconded with the proceeds lottery scandals finally concluded in prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a huge surge in the types of gambling and San Francisco was crowned the new gambling capital in the US. During 1849 and 1855 gambling spread widely and by 1850 California and lots of cities had licensed gambling centers. But soon the Legislature made most types of gambling illegal and certain professional gamblers were lynched. This prohibition drove wagering activities underground and did not eliminate it. Gambling was legal during 1869-1910 in Nevada.
It is easy to now understand what started gambling on sports in the US. With all the many scandals within the lottery gambling segments, 35 states in the US including California prohibited lotteries. In 1933 pari-mutuel betting was legalized and new automated systems and laws made horse racing betting more honest. In 1978 casino gambling was legalized by New Jersey and Atlantic City became a preferred tourist destination. Regardless of its illegality sports gambling became very popular and today is a billion dollar industry.