The Evolution of Gambling in the US

The United States has a long gambling history filled with several ups and downs. Before Christopher Columbus came to America, the indigenous tribes held gambling activities. A resemblance of these activities can be found in today’s tribal games offered by several gambling hotspots.

When the American colonists came, they brought gambling activities from Europe. Despite the deep Puritan history of the earlier founders, gambling in the US never disappeared even during the intense national ban periods.


Clash of Two Cultures

Two different groups of Englishmen arrived in America. The first was the traditional ones, who loved gambling activities and brought their gambling activities from Europe to America. The second group was the Puritans who were religious and saw gambling as an immoral activity to be avoided. 

A clash over gambling activities between these two groups characterizes the history and evolution of gambling in the US. The power struggle between these groups has led to periods where gambling was outlawed and periods where it was favored. To date, this struggle continues. 


Raffles Funded The Early Period of The Revolutionary War

Not many Americans know this, but gambling in form of raffles helped the success of the revolutionary war. In the early periods, raffles were used by the Continental Army led by General Washington to raise funds to fight the War of Independence against England.  When France supported the war, raffles played a lesser role. 


Gambling Thrived in the Early Independence Years

America in the early years was all about the ideals of freedom. Gambling activities flowed freely with little legal repercussions. In the 13 colonies, lotteries and raffles were everywhere. The popular gambling activities include blackjack, faro, cockfighting, horse racing, and dog racing.

Riverboat gambling in the early decades of the 1800s became a part of the American culture. Settlements on the Mississippi river-dominated. 

New Orleans became the main gambling center in the US by 1830. The lack of regulations created a problem when criminal syndicates became to use gambling for their nefarious activities. Gambling got bad reputations and there was turmoil in the nation over gambling activities. 


Lotteries Outlawed

States such as Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts took the bold step of outlawing lotteries in 1833. Gambling became synonymous with corruption during this period. As part of the measures to regulate the ‘wild’ industry,  all US states banned lotteries by 1840.


Gambling Goes To The Frontier States

As Americans took hold of their ‘Manifest Destiny’ and moved westward, they took gambling activities there. Men particularly enjoyed it. San Francisco replaced New Orleans as the main gambling center in the US.

After the Civil war ended, many Americans moved to the territory now known as the Old West. Gambling became popular for the cowboys, railway workers, and local farmers that dominated the Old West. Faro was the most popular gambling game at that time.

Again, gambling gained a bad reputation. In San Francisco, professional gamblers were lynched. Most of the anti-gambling laws passed in the Old West were weak. It was not until 1860 that the anti-gambling laws began to be felt


Slot Machines

Slot machines came to San Francisco as early as the 1900s. The machine was quickly outlawed in many American states by 1910. Charles Fey, the inventor of the slot machine tried to get his machines sold but meet with little success because of the massive negativity associated with gambling at this period.


The Great Depression Brought Legal Gambling Back

Gambling in Nevada was legal until 1910. It took the Great Depression for legal gambling to come back. As part of efforts to raising state funds, Nevada lawmakers in 1931 legalized gambling. Nevada became the main attraction in the United States. Lots of casinos were enacted in the decade that followed. 

Las Vegas casinos became an attraction point for Americans looking to make easy money after the horrors of World War II. Casinos spurt up in Las Vegas in numbers, offering all types of games such as roulette, poker, and blackjack. 


Lottery Gambling Returns

Lottery returned to the US states in the 1970s. This time it was better organized with strict restrictions and run by state and multi-state licensed companies. Charitable gambling also took off during this period. 


Online Gambling in the US

Online gambling innovated the way gambling is done in the US and the world. With the internet booming in the early 2000s, the platform was set for online gambling to thrive. Gaming manufacturers such as Microgaming and Playtech began developing cool gambling games software.

By 2005, the online gambling sphere was saturated with many sportsbooks and online casinos. By 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which halted the growth. Gambling still thrives in America to date.


A glance at the history of gambling in the US reveals that Americans love gambling activities. Even with US gambling laws, gambling always finds a way to thrive. 

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