Generating billions of dollars in revenues a year, sports betting is one of the world’s most lucrative industries. And it has a rich history, too. According to experts, people have been gambling on sports since ancient times, with bets being initially placed on sporting events like chariot and canoe races.

Even though it has been practiced for thousands of years, sports betting remained illegal in the USA for a very long time. If you are curious to find out why wagering on sports remained banned for such a long time, you might want to check out the following article – present you a history of sports betting in the USA.

  • Colonial period

Believe it or not, organized betting on sporting events began even before the States got their independence. In the early 17th century, horse racing was established as a royal sport in the UK and gained unparalleled popularity over the first few decades. It became so popular, in fact, that the British even established a racecourse in the US.

The first racecourse in the US was created in Long Island in 1665 and by 1868 the sport had grown into a well-organized business as well. For some time, horse racing remained the only sport to wager on. Similarly to the UK, however, the enterprise was reserved for the rich, and those who could not afford to bet on horses had to look for alternatives.

It is believed that the gold rush brought immense wealth to California citizens, which was complemented by a diversification of the gambling market. What followed was the legalization of a number of gambling establishments throughout the state in the 1850s. And, once citizens spread beyond California, gambling was introduced to a wider US public.

In the following years, however, the public began to associate professional gamblers with municipal corruption and gambling was even blamed for the economic depression that happened at the time.

  • A ban on gambling

Ironically, California was the first state to issue anti-gambling laws. The initial laws were weak and had to do with the prohibition of specific games. Nevertheless, the public attitude towards betting remained unchanged.

Slowly, the state strengthened its anti-gambling measures and by the 1860, all forms of gambling which included a bettor and a bookmaker/house were banned. As this law did not make betting itself illegal, people kept on betting; this time in a parimutuel form, though.

In 1891 at last, all gambling-related activities were banned across the USA.

  • A new era begins

In the early 20th century, wagering activities remained illegal in the US and it was only in 1949 that Nevada finally legalized sports betting. Even though wagering on sports was finally possible, good faith was missing. Moreover, sports-related scandals that happened in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s did little to improve the reputation of the enterprise. On the contrary, sports wagering was again deemed as a decaying activity.

What came as a natural result of the sports-related scandals of the time was the Federal Wire Act of 1961, which not only made the activity of betting on sports illegal, but also prohibited the sharing of information concerning the enterprise, too.

And yet, gambling thrived in spite of the attempt to ban it again – it was way too popular. According to a report of the 1970s, about two-thirds of US citizens gambled and 80% of the population approved the enterprise. Still, legislation was not changed, and gambling remained a prohibited activity, loved by many.

  • 1992 and PASPA

Slowly and steadily, the government changed its views on casino gambling, but the attitude towards sports betting remained largely unchanged. In fact, professional sports leagues also held a negative view on sports betting, arguing that the activity would compromise the integrity of different games.

And that is how PASPA, which was signed in 1992, came into existence. Simply said, PASPA enacted a total ban on all sports betting and other gambling activities in all US states. The government gave individual states one year to decide whether they wanted to allow sports betting within their borders, and Nevada was the first state to demand a comprehensive list of betting options. Several other states also included some forms of gambling, but their demands were not as extensive.

  • Present-day and future

In May 2018, Supreme Court abolished PASPA and gave states the right to decide whether they wanted sports betting within their borders or not. Following the overruling of PASPA, New Jersey became the first US state to open online sportsbooks and land-based betting shops within its borders. Second to follow was Mississippi, which launched sports betting back in August 1. Additionally, West Virginia is expected to launch sports betting on September 1, 2018.

In the near future, we can expect a number of other states to allow sports betting, which will tremendously boost the industry’s growth.