To learn what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the historical past of sports gambling in America. The US has 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 led to certain backlashes which have resulted in prohibition or regulation of sports gambling. Standards and laws relating to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose describes these changes in law as 3 waves. The first wave was during the colonial era that lasted till the mid 1800s, the 2nd wave started at the end of the Civil War and lasted up until the early Twentieth century and the 3rd wave commenced while in 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 was allowed as 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 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 out of economic 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 also libraries. Lotteries remained popular right to the initial 19th Century. Horse racing was also popular and the Long Island built the 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 mighty river with its riverboats was a major trade avenue for both 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 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 eventually concluded in prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California triggered a tremendous surge 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 many cities had licensed gambling centers. But soon the Legislature made most types of gambling illegal and a number of professional gamblers were lynched. This prohibition drove wagering 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 all 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 straightforward. In 1978 casino gambling was legalized by New Jersey and Atlantic City was a popular tourist destination. Despite its illegality sports gambling became very popular and already is a high dollar industry.