Gambling History: How Far Back Do Gambling Games Go? Possibly With the Egyptian Pharaohs

At what period in history did people start to gamble? The exact period is unknown but believe it or not, pairs of dice have been found in Egyptian tombs over 4,000 years old! Also, gambling games were played in ancient China, where Poker is thought to have originated. In 1492 during the Columbus landing, Native Americans were sports betting on the outcome of a game resembling LaCross. So when did it all start in America? Read on.

Early America

Gambling in America started with the first English settlers in the 1600’s. Their traditions included card games that were part of the aristocratic lifestyle. However, when Puritans colonized in Massachusetts Bay they had the freedom to create their own culture which included hostility towards gambling. They outlawed the possession of dice, cards, and gambling table games in their communities. Nevertheless, gambling prevailed in other localities. Many English colonists considered gambling to be a suitable form of entertainment.

The Revolution

The colony of Virginia was the first to realize that lotteries could raise capital for local governments. Eventually all 13 colonies were raising lottery revenue. Proceeds helped build Universities like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Lotteries also funded churches and libraries. Founding Fathers George Washington, Ben Franklin, and John Hancock were promoters of specific lotteries for public works projects. When the Revolutionary War started, the Continental Congress voted for a $10 million lottery to finance the war.

Westward Ho

During the early 1800’s the taverns and road houses allowed dice and card games, creating the first version of casinos. As America’s population began to increase, casinos became more lavish. The Mississippi River was a major trade route where merchants and entrepreneurs brought their cash. Gambling on riverboats became a favorite pastime and New Orleans became the gambling capitol of America. In 1849 gambling followed the pioneers to California during the gold rush. Gambling establishments began to flourish there and west of the Mississippi, including Nevada. In the late 1800’s Roulette was adopted from France and the Slot Machine was invented.

Much of the public viewed gambling as a social ill because it was linked to alcoholism and prostitution. Reformers convinced jurisdictions to shut down the Dens of Iniquity. Most states discontinued lotteries as well. Riverboat gambling dried up with the advent of the railroad. By the end of the century only Nevada allowed gambling.

20th Century

In 1910 Nevada finally shut the door on gambling, which left horse race wagering the only legal entity in America. In 1912 Arizona and New Mexico were granted statehood under the condition that gambling remain outlawed. During the 1920’s prohibition era, the public’s thirst for gambling matched that of alcohol. Casinos went underground along with the speakeasys. In 1931 Nevada legalized gambling again and remained the only state to do so until the latter half of the century. Gambling flourished underground as organized crime made heavy investments in Nevada, and prospered by controlling off track betting and the numbers lottery.

During the 1950’s the U.S. Senate investigated organized crime’s link to illegal gambling. Eventually the mob departed Las Vegas. States put bookies out of business by legalizing off track betting and numbers games. Atlantic City approved gambling in 1976, the Indian Gaming Act was approved by congress in the late 1980’s. Dockside riverboat gambling made a comeback, racetracks installed slot machines while Las Vegas reinvented itself by building mega resorts during the 1990’s.

Century 21

The American Gaming Association reported that there are 832,988 slot machines spread out over 1,151 casinos and racetracks across 44 states with more on the way. It appears that the American culture’s thirst for gambling matches that of the Egyptian Pharaohs! America has embraced gambling as an acceptable form of entertainment.

Gambling In The United States – The Domino Effect It Helped Create

Once just a gentleman’s game, U.S. gambling began its rise to the center of attention around 400 years ago. A time where gambling was the root of all evil, yet it could still help the colonies from financial issues. Deliberation over the subject went on for years and still is today, but gambling never stopped to wait for an answer. While challenges were being discussed, different forms of gambling were being created to stave off bankruptcy and other money problems.

The first company to hold a gambling lottery was a bank in Jamestown, Virginia, which’ of course’ was an instant success. It wasn’t like the state lotteries you see today, but still was beneficial for a short period of time. After awhile, England felt as though they weren’t making a profit from this form of gambling, so they ended up banning it from everyone. However, that wouldn’t last long as all thirteen colonies eventually were allowed to hold their own without question.

Four centuries removed, you can drive along the eastern states and see prestigious universities like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale that were all started by revenue created by state lotteries. As several other venues were being built thanks in part to U.S. gambling, greed started to as people in the colonies wanted freedom and independence from England. While this was over several issues, lotteries were one of the bigger issues never mentioned in history books.

Obviously the most prestigious form of gambling at the time, state lotteries weren’t the only U.S. gambling going on around the country. By this time, horse races had already been around since 1665, but most bets were between owners only and not of a spectator kind. Also making its mark on cities throughout the colonies in the 1800s were casino style gambling with cards and dice. As areas grew, so did the size of gambling halls and local watering holes where games could be played.

Then came the Mississippi River and everything it had to offer with barter and trading through several owners. Business this way was quicker, and several well known individuals met on riverboats to play some casino style gambling. This was the true introduction of the professional gambler. Winning enough money in small towns to play on the riverboats with the big boys was a common tale. After awhile, many were thought to be cheaters and many would perish at the hands of people who lost money to them.

Just as the state lotteries were part of the reason for the American Revolution War, it was the Civil War that ended the time of professional gambling in the 1860s. While not the main reason, it created a business stand still, which led to no traffic up and down the great Mississippi. For the next sixty years, gambling would be loved by many and hated by that many more. States that had good fortune would create gambling booms like in California and Nevada,

As years moved ahead, people like Al Capone and his mob used gambling money to front their businesses, while at the same time sports were becoming one of the major things to bet on during this period. Fast forwarding to the seventies, lotteries held around the country were making over a billion dollars on a annual basis. Gambling in the United States was considered a normal part of living and still is today.

Now we’re in the 21st century and the gambling business is booming with billions upon billions of dollars being made annually. The Super Bowl is the most anticipated gambling event each year, and land based casinos are popping up all over the country. Still, many Americans protest gambling due to family members who have ongoing problems with controlling their addictions. However, the future looks bright and the government will have a hard time trying to give up all the tax revenue that is made off of gambling alone.

Which brings us to the future, and online casino gambling. While the United States was one of the leaders in gambling online, President Bush tried to ban them from using debit cards that are bank issued to try to control the outbreak. It didn’t take long for U.S. players to realize that adding money to different accounts like Netteller or Moneybookers, then transferring it over may take a little longer, but the end result is the same.

There will never be a solution to gambling no matter if it’s online or offline, and others will always protest the morals and what it all stands for overall. A cat and mouse game that will never be solved, and while everyone continues to argue back and forth, the sport of gambling will only become bigger. Hurry, someone go check the odds on that, you might want to bet on it.