Gambling is a strong backbone in the history of the USA. It’s one of the favorite pastimes in the United States, and as it turns out, gambling is deeply rooted in the history of this great nation. We’re not just talking about Las Vegas, and Atlantic City – all of it started way before that.

Games of chance were brought to America with the first settlers. While many communities opposed the idea, others enjoyed the fun. There were no restrictions on gambling in the 1600s, with historians having found nearly 400 different lotteries across 13 colonies with ads in the colonial era. Lotteries were not just a form of entertainment – they were also a source of revenue. The same can be said about horse betting, which emerged right around the same time.

Almost Two Centuries of Gambling

Lotteries were among the first gambling type that arrived in America in the early 1600s. Financiers from Jamestown, Virginia, used the money from these games of chance to support the local economy. Near the 1700s, an emerging upper class from Virginia had an iron grip on horse racing, cementing its economic status. The social elite shared the same values and consciousness about many things, including heavy betting on horse races.

This wealthy group of Virginians created elaborate rules and established formal codes that covered how to bet. The non-elite was marginalized – horse betting was largely a sport for the elite. This went on for nearly centuries before Methodists and Baptists put a ‘sinful’ label on gambling.

Just before 1800, the Crown restricted lotteries, which led to tensions between Britain and the Colonies that would result in the American revolution. Of course, the ban didn’t change the fact that Americans loved lotteries and gambling in general. Lotteries continued to be a great revenue source in pre-revolutionary America, with New Orleans as the center.

In the 1800s, especially during the California Gold Rush, prospecting for gold and gambling were two sides of manliness. Aspiring prospectors in the mid-1800s made San Francisco the gambling capital of the world. Other settlements in the West were also very fond of gambling, with frontier gamblers becoming the new elite. Riverboat gamblers dressed smartly and wore expensive jewelry, being considered people of style.

The Civil War destroyed the affluence of gambling, but it later began to emerge again in the Northeast. Horse race betting was once again at the forefront, but this time, it attracted the elite and working-class gamblers. Gambling made a big comeback in America after the Civil War, and it was here to stay.

Las Vegas and Atlantic City

At the beginning of the XX century, the Great Depression struck America hard. As a popular gambling destination, Nevada legalized gambling to provide economic relief for the state. Most forms of gambling were legalized by 1931. There was a tight grip on gambling throughout America later, and Las Vegas became a great investment target for crime figures such as Bugsy Siegel.

Vegas became the gambling capital of the US and the world in just a few decades. Legitimate investors bought hotels and casinos and cut the city’s ties to organized crime. 

In 1977, New Jersey legalized gambling and became a major tourist attraction. Gambling and betting were largely constricted to these two locations before online gambling in the USA  opened the doors for players from all states.

While not regulated on a federal level, over 15 states in the USA have legalized online gambling. Some of them are:

  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Utah
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana

The online gambling revenue brings billions of dollars to the USA each year, and many states have realized its potential. Poker is especially popular among bettors these days, yet lotteries and sports betting remain the two most popular gambling forms in the USA.