To understand what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the history of sports gambling in America. The USA has a long history of permitting certain types of legal gambling and also illegal betting to some extent. Political control and scandals concerning gaming interests have led to selected backlashes which have lead to prohibition or regulating sports gambling. Standards and laws pertaining to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose describes these adjustments in law as three waves. The 1st wave was in the colonial era that lasted up until the mid 1800s, the 2nd wave started following the Civil War and lasted up until the early Twentieth century and the 3rd wave commenced during the Great Depression and is 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. Afterwards it had been allowed so long as it was not a calling or trade but for moderate and innocent recreation. Settlers brought along with them views that said gambling was nothing but 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 financial problems as well as benefit the colonies. It became a civic responsibility and profits were utilized to create a number of the first prestigious universities, build churches and even libraries. Lotteries continued to be popular right to the initial Nineteenth century. Horse racing was also preferred and the Long Island built the first race track in 1665. Casino gaming began to emerge slowly as roadhouses and taverns began to permit card games and dice.
The Lower Mississippi Valley became a structured 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 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 set off a tremendous 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 also by 1850 California and lots of cities had licensed gambling centers. But soon the Legislature made most types 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 the numerous 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 became a popular tourist destination. Regardless of its illegality sports gambling became quite popular and today is a billion dollar industry.