To understand what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the history of sports gambling in America. The US has a long history of permitting certain types of legal gambling and also illegal betting to some extent. Political control and scandals concerning gaming interests have ended in certain backlashes that have resulted in prohibition or regulation of sports gambling. Standards and laws relating to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose explains these changes in law as three waves. The first wave was during the colonial era that lasted till the mid 1800s, the 2nd wave started following the Civil War and lasted up until the early 20th Century and also the third wave commenced during 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 possessing dice, cards, gaming tables etc were outlawed. Afterwards it had been allowed as long as it wasn’t a calling or trade but for moderate and innocent recreation. Settlers brought with them views that said gambling was nothing but a harmless activity. The frontier spirit encouraged the appeal of gambling since it involved risk taking, high expectations and opportunism.
Ultimately all colonies used lotteries as being a solution out of economic problems as well as help the colonies. It became a civic responsibility and profits were utilized to establish some of the first prestigious universities, build churches and even libraries. Lotteries continued to be popular right to the initial Nineteenth century. Horse racing was also popular and the Long Island built the first race track in 1665. Casino gaming began to emerge slowly as roadhouses and taverns started to permit card games and dice.
The Lower Mississippi Valley became an organized and legitimate gambling area in 1800s. The grand river featuring its riverboats became a major trade avenue for wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans quickly gained recognition as 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 led to prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California triggered a tremendous increase in the types of gambling and San Francisco became the new gambling capital in the USA. During 1849 and 1855 gambling spread widely and also by 1850 California and lots of cities had licensed gambling centers. But soon the Legislature made most types of gambling illegal and a number of 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 possible to now understand what started gambling on sports in the US. With all the many scandals within the lottery gambling segments, 35 states in America including California prohibited lotteries. In 1933 pari-mutuel betting was legalized and new automated systems and laws made horse racing betting more straightforward. In 1978 casino gambling was legalized by New Jersey and Atlantic City was a popular tourist destination. Despite its illegality sports gambling became quite popular and already is a high dollar industry.