To learn what started gambling on sports one has to first examine the history of sports gambling in America. The US has a long history of permitting certain types of legal gambling and also illegal gambling to a certain degree. Political control and scandals concerning gaming interests have led to certain backlashes that have resulted in prohibition or regulating sports gambling. Standards and laws pertaining to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose describes these changes in law as three waves. The 1st wave was during the colonial era that lasted till the mid 1800s, the second wave started following the Civil War and lasted till the early Twentieth century and also the third wave commenced while in the Great Depression and is still continuing.
During the Colonial Era, different attitudes were enforced towards gambling. Puritan attitudes were adopted towards gambling and possession of dice, cards, gaming tables etc were outlawed. Afterwards it was allowed so long as it was not a calling or trade except 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.
Ultimately all colonies used lotteries as a solution from economic problems and to help the colonies. It was a civic responsibility and proceeds were utilized to establish some of the first prestigious universities, build churches and even libraries. Lotteries continued to be popular right to the initial 19th Century. Horse racing had also been popular and the Long Island built the very first race track in 1665. Casino gaming started 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 grand river with its riverboats became a major trade avenue for both wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans soon gained recognition as being the gambling capital. During the 1830s southern settlers turned against professional gamblers who had been held responsible for carrying out crimes, debasing morals of society and endangering streets. During 1800s there was increasing attack of gambling especially lotteries and when operators absconded with all the proceeds lottery scandals finally led to prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a huge surge in the types of gambling and San Francisco was crowned the new gambling capital in the USA. During 1849 and 1855 gambling spread widely and 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 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 preferred tourist destination. Despite its illegality sports gambling became very popular and today is a billion dollar industry.