To learn what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the historical past of sports gambling in the US. The USA has a long history of allowing some kinds of legal gambling and even illegal gambling to some extent. Political control and scandals regarding gaming interests have ended in certain backlashes which have resulted in prohibition or regulation of sports gambling. Standards and laws relating to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose describes 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 following the Civil War and lasted till the early Twentieth century and the third wave commenced while in the Great Depression and it’s 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 outlawed. Later on 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 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 financial problems and to help the colonies. It was a civic responsibility and profits were utilized to establish a number of the first prestigious universities, build churches and also libraries. Lotteries remained popular right to the early Nineteenth century. Horse racing had also been preferred and the Long Island built the very first race track in 1665. Casino gaming started to emerge slowly as roadhouses and taverns began to allow card games and dice.
The Lower Mississippi Valley became a structured and legitimate gambling area in 1800s. The grand river featuring its riverboats was 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 were blamed for committing crimes, debasing morals of society and endangering streets. During 1800s there was increasing attack of gambling especially lotteries and whenever operators absconded with all the proceeds lottery scandals eventually led to prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a tremendous surge in the types of gambling and San Francisco became the new gambling capital in the US. 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 could 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 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. Regardless of its illegality sports gambling became very popular and already is a high dollar industry.