To learn what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the historical past of sports gambling in America. 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 ended in certain backlashes which have lead to prohibition or regulating sports gambling. Standards and laws pertaining to sports gambling have kept changing.
Nelson Rose describes these adjustments in law as 3 waves. The first wave was in the colonial era that lasted till the mid 1800s, the second wave started at the end of the Civil War and lasted till the early 20th Century and also the 3rd wave commenced while in the Great Depression and is still continuing.
Throughout 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. 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 risk taking, high expectations and opportunism.
Ultimately all colonies used lotteries as being a solution from economic problems as well as help the colonies. It was a civic responsibility and profits were used to establish some of the first prestigious universities, build churches and even libraries. Lotteries remained popular right to the early Nineteenth century. Horse racing was also preferred and the Long Island built the very first race track in 1665. Casino gaming began to emerge slowly as roadhouses and taverns began to allow card games and dice.
The Lower Mississippi Valley became an organized and legitimate gambling area in 1800s. The mighty river featuring its riverboats became a major trade avenue for wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans soon gained recognition as the gambling capital. During the 1830s southern settlers turned against professional gamblers who were blamed for committing crimes, debasing morals of society and endangering streets. During 1800s there seemed to be increasing attack of gambling especially lotteries and when operators absconded with the proceeds lottery scandals eventually led to prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a huge increase in the kinds of gambling and San Francisco became the new gambling capital in the US. During 1849 and 1855 gambling spread widely and 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 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 USA. With all the many scandals within 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 today is a high dollar industry.