A History of Sports Betting in the United States: Gambling Laws, Pop Culture, and Outlaws

The future of gambling law in the United States can be better understood by looking back at its historical context. Sports betting has a lengthy history in the United States, even though it often violates anti-gambling laws and gaming regulations.

The United States has seen a protracted struggle between anti-gambling legislation and those who desire to participate in gambling for entertainment purposes.

When organized crime stepped in in the middle of the 20th century to fill the hole left by the lack of authorized and authorized U.S. sportsbooks, especially Maryland sportsbooks, Congress passed gambling laws to eradicate sports betting.

The American desire for sports betting is as avid as ever, and public opinion has shifted in favor of allowing individual states within the United States to create their own gaming laws without interference from the federal government.

Looking Back at the History

Sports betting has been a part of American culture since the country’s earliest days.

As settlers moved westward across the continent, they brought their love of sports with them and began to gamble on the outcomes. This practice continued throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century, when professional sports leagues began to take shape and organized gambling became more common.

The first laws prohibiting sports betting in America were passed in 1910 as states sought to limit what was seen as an increasingly problematic form of entertainment.

But even then, many people found ways around these laws by engaging in underground bookmaking operations or simply placing bets through friendly transactions without involving money at all.

While it remained illegal for much of the 20th century, this didn’t stop Americans from finding creative ways to wager on their favorite teams and sports events, often with some help from popular culture figures like legendary gambler Nick The Greek or fictional mobsters like Tony Soprano or Meyer Lansky who were depicted making bets on TV shows and movies.

In 2018, a landmark Supreme Court ruling paved the way for states across America to legalize sports betting if they chose to do so. This has led several states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and Nevada (among others), to legalize different forms of sports wagering within their borders, while other jurisdictions gradually move towards doing so as well over time.

Legalizing sportsbooks with their USPs like that of the Caesars Sportsbook promo code allows gamblers access to regulated markets that offer better odds than those provided by offshore operators, which had previously become commonplace due to the limited protections offered by foreign-based sites and services outside of the U.S. jurisdiction thus far.

Today’s legal landscape is still evolving, but one thing is certain: sports betting will continue to be a major part of American life for years to come, both legally and illegally, just like it has been since our nation’s founding.

In the Early Years of the New Millennium

The PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) was passed by Congress to severely crack down on sports betting in 1992. It prevents jurisdictions from making sports betting legal. The legislation itself is brief, reading as follows:

“It’s against the law if a legislation or agreement requires or permits a government to operate, sponsor, promote, or authorize, or a law or compact requires or permits a private party to operate, sponsor, advertise, or promote.”

Interestingly, a New Jersey senator named Bill Bradley, a former basketball player for the New York Knicks and Princeton University, was a crucial factor in the effort to establish PASPA. It’s ironic that New Jersey, which seems to have lost the most economic potential as a consequence of PASPA, has also been at the forefront of efforts to overturn the law in courts and at the polls since 2009.

However, New Jersey did have a window under PASPA to authorize sports betting in the state. States that had previously authorized sports betting were exempt from PASPA’s restrictions thanks to a “grandfather” provision. States like Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana fall within this category.

In 1976, residents of Delaware could place parlay bets on NFL games, and in 1997, Oregonians could participate in the “Sports Action Lottery,” which was subsequently halted.

However, in November 1993, a referendum initiative to modify the state constitution to legalize sports betting was defeated. This was because of a provision in PASPA that permitted New Jersey one year to legalize the practice due to the presence of the state’s casino business. Attempts to use litigation and legal loopholes to fall within PASPA’s exemption were similarly fruitless.

So, What’s Now?

Do you recall when Nevada was the one and only state that allowed sports betting in the United States? States now have the freedom to decide whether or not to permit sports betting in the country, thanks to a historic ruling by the Supreme Court in May 2018.

By the end of 2023, sports betting will be allowed in 33 states, including Washington, DC. A few additional states are now discussing whether or not to authorize sports betting as you read this.