To learn what started betting on sports one has to first examine the historical past of sports gambling in the US. The USA had a long history of allowing some kinds of legal gambling and also illegal betting to a certain degree. Political control and scandals regarding gaming interests have led to selected backlashes which have resulted in prohibition or regulating sports gambling. Standards and laws pertaining to sports gambling have kept altering.
Nelson Rose describes these adjustments in law as 3 waves. The 1st wave was in 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 the third wave commenced while in the Great Depression and is still continuing.
Throughout the Colonial Era, diverse attitudes were enforced towards gambling. Puritan attitudes were adopted towards gambling and possessing dice, cards, gaming tables etc were banned. Afterwards it was allowed as long as it wasn't a calling or trade but 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 high risk, high expectations and opportunism.
Ultimately all colonies used lotteries as a solution from economic problems and to help the colonies. It became a civic responsibility and proceeds were utilized to create some 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 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 was a major trade avenue for wealthy merchants and farmers. New Orleans soon gained recognition as being the gambling capital. During the 1830s southern settlers turned against professional gamblers who were blamed 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 the proceeds lottery scandals eventually led to prohibition of gambling.
The Gold Rush in California set off a tremendous increase in the types 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 types of gambling illegal and a number of 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 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 became a preferred tourist destination. Regardless of its illegality sports gambling became very popular and already is a high dollar industry.