To learn what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the historical past of sports gambling in America. The USA had a long history of allowing certain types of legal gambling and even illegal gambling to a certain degree. Political control and scandals concerning gaming interests have ended in certain backlashes that have lead to prohibition or regulation of sports gambling. Standards and laws relating to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose explains these changes in law as 3 waves. The first wave was in 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 the 3rd wave commenced during the Great Depression and is still continuing.
Throughout the Colonial Era, different attitudes were enforced towards gambling. Puritan attitudes were adopted towards gambling and possessing dice, cards, gaming tables etc were banned. Afterwards it had been allowed so 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 activity. The frontier spirit encouraged the appeal of gambling since it involved high risk, high expectations and opportunism.
Ultimately all colonies used lotteries as being a solution out of economic problems and to help the colonies. It became a civic responsibility and profits were used to create a number of the first prestigious universities, build churches and even libraries. Lotteries continued to be popular right to the initial Nineteenth century. Horse racing had also been popular and the Long Island built the first race track in 1665. Casino gaming started 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 mighty river featuring its riverboats was a major trade avenue for wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans soon 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 finally led to prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a tremendous 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 many cities had licensed gambling centers. But soon the Legislature made most types of gambling illegal and certain professional gamblers were lynched. This prohibition drove gambling activities underground and could 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 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 preferred tourist destination. Regardless of its illegality sports gambling became very popular and already is a high dollar industry.