Unlike other countries, the USA is a fairly new nation yet it has gone through constant changes during its course of history. Surprisingly, gambling has always been there from the start, only that its popularity and nature have experienced a lot of transformations.
Gambling and The Foundation of The USA
In 1776, when the Continental Congress fought against England, the war was costing an incredible amount of money. This forces the Congress to use raffles to raise more money for the army. The raffles were the main source of funding and it’s hard to tell how the war would have played out without it.
Gambling in The Early Years of America
Gambling took multiple forms in America at that time, including lotteries, raffles, faro, blackjack, horse racing, cock fights… Americans were free to enjoy all these activities.
Poker started to be played in the US in the early 1800s, with much influence from French colonists. Many variants of the game were actually similar to modern poker, but players were dealt a hand of 5 cards rather than 2 with a shared flop.
Gambling on Riverboats
Some states tried to restrict gambling on land so people started to build casinos on riverboats. These casinos were very popular in the Mississippi River delta — the American frontier at the time. However, riverboat gambling soon became a taboo for criminals and ‘professional players’ would come there to take advantage of the Mississippi residents.
Lotteries Were Outlawed
The 1830s saw America trying to erase all forms of corruption prevalent at the time, including lottery manipulation. As a result, one by one, every state eventually outlawed lotteries altogether by 1840.
The Invention of Slot Machines
In the 1890s, a German immigrant named Charles Fey invented the first slot machine: the Liberty Bell machine. But the authority deemed it illegal for a slot machine to pay out money so the prizes had to be changed into gum and fruit — thus explained the origin of the term ‘fruit slots’.
Las Vegas Became a Gambling Hub
Around 1901, gambling was banned in all of the US, except state-sponsored lotteries and bingo. These two forms of gambling were spared for they provided funding for important causes.
However, the Great Depression soon followed the ban, causing economic issues in many states. Nevada, in particular, was severely affected by the stock market crash and the cost for building the Hoover Dam. The lawmakers in this state, consequently, chose to legalize gambling in 1931, which led to major casinos being built in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas eventually became a famous tourist attraction in America post World War II. The economy was gradually improving and Americans soon had enough money to spare for vacations. Many of them were very drawn to Las Vegas because it didn’t just end at games like blackjack, roulette…, the casinos in Las Vegas often invited renounced singers to perform for their customers. Frank Sanatra and Elvis Presley were two prime examples.
The Ups and Down of Online Gambling
When online gambling first appeared in the US, it was a huge success with amazing games from legendary studios like Microgaming and Playtech. Also, popular poker tournaments aired on TV added to the gambling sensation in America at the time.
However, bad news soon came for both online gamblers in America and developers alike. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed, which essentially banned all online gambling.
Nowadays, the online gambling scene in the US is still not as prevalent as in Europe but many states have legalized it now. It all stemmed from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) being overturned in 2018. Now, each state has a right to regulate (or not) online gambling however they want.
Gambling was considered a part of the American culture in the old days. Then, in various periods, it was outlawed partly or completely, only to be reintroduced again. Needless to say, the state of gambling in the USA has always been unpredictable but at least now is relatively a good time for American gamblers.