To understand what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the historical past of sports gambling in the US. The US had a long history of permitting some kinds of legal gambling and also illegal gambling to a certain degree. Political control and scandals regarding gaming interests have ended in selected backlashes which have lead to prohibition or regulation of sports gambling. Standards and laws relating 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 up until the mid 1800s, the 2nd wave started at the end of the Civil War and lasted till the early Twentieth century and 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 possessing dice, cards, gaming tables etc were outlawed. Later on it had been allowed as long as it was not a calling or trade except for moderate and innocent recreation. Settlers brought with them views that said gambling was merely a harmless activity. The frontier spirit encouraged the appeal of gambling since it involved high risk, high expectations and opportunism.
Ultimately all colonies used lotteries as a solution from financial problems and to benefit the colonies. It was a civic responsibility and profits were used to create a number of the first prestigious universities, build churches and also libraries. Lotteries remained popular right to the early Nineteenth century. Horse racing was also preferred and the Long Island built the 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 an organized and legitimate gambling area in 1800s. The grand river with its riverboats became a major trade avenue for both wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans quickly gained recognition as being the gambling capital. Through the 1830s southern settlers turned against professional gamblers who had been 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 all the proceeds lottery scandals finally concluded in prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California triggered a tremendous increase in the types of gambling and San Francisco was crowned 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 forms 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 possible to now understand what started gambling on sports in the USA. With the numerous scandals in 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 was a popular tourist destination. Despite its illegality sports gambling became quite popular and today is a billion dollar industry.