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 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 regulating sports gambling. Standards and laws relating to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose explains these adjustments in law as three waves. The 1st wave was during 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 also the 3rd wave commenced while in the Great Depression and it’s still continuing.
Throughout the Colonial Era, different attitudes were enforced towards betting. Puritan attitudes were adopted towards gambling and possession of dice, cards, gaming tables etc were banned. Afterwards it was 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 activity. The frontier spirit encouraged the appeal of gambling as it involved high risk, high expectations and opportunism.
Eventually all colonies used lotteries as being a solution from financial problems as well as help the colonies. It was a civic responsibility and profits were used to create a number of the first prestigious universities, build churches and even 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 permit 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 soon gained recognition as the gambling capital. During the 1830s southern settlers turned against professional gamblers who had been held responsible 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 the proceeds lottery scandals finally concluded in prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California triggered a huge increase 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 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 possible to now understand what started gambling on sports in the US. With all the many 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 straightforward. In 1978 casino gambling was legalized by New Jersey and Atlantic City was a popular tourist destination. Regardless of its illegality sports gambling became quite popular and today is a high dollar industry.