To learn what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the history of sports gambling in the US. The US had a long history of allowing some kinds of legal gambling and also illegal gambling to some extent. Political control and scandals concerning gaming interests have led to certain backlashes which have lead to prohibition or regulation of sports gambling. Standards and laws pertaining to sports gambling have kept changing.
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 second wave started following the Civil War and lasted till the early Twentieth century and the third wave commenced while in the Great Depression and is still continuing.
During the Colonial Era, diverse attitudes were enforced towards gambling. Puritan attitudes were adopted towards gambling and possessing dice, cards, gaming tables etc were banned. Later on it had been allowed as long as it wasn’t a calling or trade except for moderate and innocent recreation. Settlers brought along with them views that said gambling was nothing but a harmless past time. The frontier spirit encouraged the appeal of gambling as it involved risk taking, high expectations and opportunism.
Eventually all colonies used lotteries as being a solution from financial problems as well as benefit the colonies. It was a civic responsibility and proceeds were utilized to establish a number of the first prestigious universities, build churches and also libraries. Lotteries continued to be popular right to the initial 19th Century. Horse racing had also been popular and the Long Island built the very first race track in 1665. Casino gaming began to emerge slowly as roadhouses and taverns started to allow card games and dice.
The Lower Mississippi Valley became a structured and legitimate gambling area in 1800s. The grand river with its riverboats was a major trade avenue for both wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans quickly gained recognition as the gambling capital. Through the 1830s southern settlers turned against professional gamblers who had been blamed for committing crimes, debasing morals of society and endangering streets. During 1800s there was increasing attack of gambling especially lotteries and when operators absconded with all the proceeds lottery scandals finally concluded in prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a huge increase in the kinds 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 many cities had licensed gambling centers. But soon the Legislature made most forms of gambling illegal and certain professional gamblers were lynched. This prohibition drove gambling 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 USA. With the many scandals in 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 honest. In 1978 casino gambling was legalized by New Jersey and Atlantic City became a popular tourist destination. Regardless of its illegality sports gambling became very popular and today is a high dollar industry.