To learn what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the history of sports gambling in America. The US had a long history of permitting some kinds of legal gambling and also illegal betting to some extent. Political control and scandals regarding gaming interests have ended in selected backlashes which have lead to prohibition or regulating sports gambling. Standards and laws pertaining to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose explains these changes in law as 3 waves. The first wave was during the colonial era that lasted up until the mid 1800s, the 2nd wave started following the Civil War and lasted till the early 20th Century and the 3rd wave commenced while in the Great Depression and it’s still continuing.
During the Colonial Era, different attitudes were enforced towards gambling. Puritan attitudes were adopted towards gambling and possessing dice, cards, gaming tables etc were outlawed. Afterwards it was allowed so long as it was not 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 risk taking, high expectations and opportunism.
Eventually all colonies used lotteries as a solution from economic problems as well as help the colonies. It became 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 initial Nineteenth century. Horse racing had also been popular and the Long Island built the very first race track in 1665. Casino gaming began to emerge slowly as roadhouses and taverns started to permit card games and dice.
The Lower Mississippi Valley became an organized and legitimate gambling area in 1800s. The mighty river featuring its riverboats was a major trade avenue for both wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans quickly gained recognition as the gambling capital. Through the 1830s southern settlers turned against professional gamblers who were 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 all the proceeds lottery scandals eventually led to prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a huge increase in the types of gambling and San Francisco became the new gambling capital in the USA. During 1849 and 1855 gambling spread widely and also 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 did not eliminate it. Gambling was legal during 1869-1910 in Nevada.
It is easy to now understand what started gambling on sports in the USA. With all the numerous 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 was a popular tourist destination. Despite its illegality sports gambling became quite popular and already is a billion dollar industry.