To learn what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the historical past of sports gambling in the US. The US has a long history of allowing certain types of legal gambling and even illegal betting to a certain degree. Political control and scandals concerning gaming interests have ended in selected backlashes which have lead to prohibition or regulation of sports gambling. Standards and laws pertaining to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose explains these changes 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 also the third wave commenced during the Great Depression and it’s still continuing.
During the Colonial Era, diverse attitudes were enforced towards betting. Puritan attitudes were adopted towards gambling and possession of 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 along with them views that said gambling was merely 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 a solution out of financial problems as well as benefit the colonies. It was a civic responsibility and profits were used to create some of the first prestigious universities, build churches and even libraries. Lotteries continued to be 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 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 mighty river with its riverboats was a major trade avenue for wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans soon gained recognition as 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 was increasing attack of gambling especially lotteries and whenever operators absconded with the proceeds lottery scandals finally concluded in prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a huge 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 by 1850 California and many cities had licensed gambling centers. But soon the Legislature made most forms of gambling illegal and a number of 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 possible to now understand what started gambling on sports in the USA. With the many scandals within 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 preferred tourist destination. Despite its illegality sports gambling became very popular and today is a high dollar industry.