How has gambling evolved throughout US history

Gambling is one of the biggest industries to have ever existed globally, although it has not always been one of the most popular to have existed.

Indeed, there are a number of countries that have resisted legalizing the industry in the past, with the United States of America to have been one country to have a rather storied history in regard to the activity.


Gambling has managed to evolve throughout American history

Of course, we all know that attitudes to the pastime are continuing to change, with a number of states having decided to legalize wagering in recent memory, as they have introduced their own regulations following a 2018 ruling by the Supreme Court.

However, the country’s history in regard to the activity is one that is incredibly interesting and one that features a lot of different moments that have significantly contributed to its growth and evolution.

This article will take a look back throughout time and highlight just how the gambling industry has managed to evolve and how America has managed to get to the point which it is at today.


Early days

Gambling in the United States has been present since the country’s inception. In the early days of American history, gambling was quite popular and widely accepted. After the Revolutionary War, however, gambling began to be seen as a vice and became increasingly frowned upon. This trend continued into the early 20th century when gambling was associated with crime and corruption.

During the 1800s, gambling became increasingly popular throughout the United States. Many towns and cities had their own gambling houses, where people could play cards, dice, and other games of chance. Horse racing also became a popular form of gambling during this time.

Native Americans were known to gamble on a variety of games and activities, including betting on the outcomes of foot races and stickball games. Gambling was also popular among early settlers and pioneers, who often wagered on card games and horse races.


What happened in the 1900s?

In the early 1900s, gambling was outlawed in many states as part of a larger movement to crack down on vice crimes. This did not stop people from gambling, however. Illegal gambling operations (called “bootlegging”) flourished during this time.

However, this began to change in the mid-20th century, when legalized gambling began to make a comeback. This was partly due to changing social attitudes, but it was also due to economic factors. The Great Depression, which lasted 43 months from August 1929 to March 1933, had played a role in allowing for the evolution of gambling in the U.S., with some states deciding to go back to the legalization of certain activities.

Most activities had remained illegal, however 21 states had opened race tracks, whilst some had allowed churches and charities to raise money via games of Bingo.

Gambling was legalized again in the 1930s when the state of Nevada passed a law allowing casino gambling. Unsurprisingly, Nevada quickly became the center of the American gambling industry. Las Vegas, in particular, became a booming tourism destination thanks to its many casinos and hotels.


Where are we today?

Today, gambling is legal in many states and there are casinos in almost every major city. Americans continue to gamble on a variety of games, including lottery games, slot machines, and table games such as poker and blackjack and it is once again a popular pastime in the United States.

Indeed, there are a number of different markets that have already been able to thrive following the decision in 2018 by the Supreme Court to end the Federal Law and allow states to decide whether or not to permit wagering activities.

One state that has since taken advantage of the ruling is Connecticut, with punters able to enjoy the Connecticut online gambling platforms since October 2021 after they decided to introduce it. Residents and those located within its borders are able to participate in sports betting, as well as slot machines, roulette, blackjack, baccarat, craps, live dealer games, and video poker, with it expected that traditional forms of poker will become live in the near future.


Is the industry still growing?

Naturally, there are some states that have managed to benefit more than others across the U.S., thus highlighting the appetite that Americans have for gambling and further emphasizing the evolution that the industry has been able to enjoy within the country throughout history.

Nevada continues to lead the way, although that is hardly a surprise, whilst New Jersey and Pennsylvania are ranked second and third in regard to the revenue generated when it comes to sports betting. However, it is clear that there is still a certain amount of growth that is possible to achieve, as Pennsylvania continues to break records.

New states continue to implement regulations that permit wagering activities, too, with the likes of New York and Maryland having both recently introduced laws. However, there are huge states – in regard to population – that could still look to implement legal gambling at some point in the future.

California and Texas could both look to enter the market and bring it to around 70 million people into the equation, whereas Florida – which boasts approximately another 20 million residents – continues to remain in limbo after going back and forward.


Problems could still stop the full evolution of gambling

However, it is clear that it remains controversial, with some people arguing that it should be banned altogether whilst other states have resisted the urge to follow suit or have already completely banned it and are unprepared to go back on the decisions that they have made.

States including Hawaii, Utah, and Vermont appear very unlikely to ever allow gambling to be made legal within their borders for a variety of different reasons, including the negativity that is felt regarding the popular pastime.


Final Thoughts

Nevertheless, it seems likely that gambling will continue to be a part of American culture for many years to come and it would not be a surprise to see the industry continue to evolve in the future!