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A Brief History of Betting in the U.S.

Published: June 18, 2018

The U.S. has a long history of gambling and sports betting, dating back to the American Revolution. From sports betting to lotteries, gambling has always been a part of our nation’s history. A new ruling from the Supreme Court that states can establish their own sports gambling legislation ushers in a new chapter that could change the future of gambling in the U.S.

Gambling in the U.S.

Believe it or not, the American Revolutionary War was funded in part through lotteries in the original 13 colonies. In his blog, Roger Dunstan writes: “All 13 original colonies established lotteries … once the war of independence started, the Continental Congress voted a $10 million lottery to finance the war.”

Over the years, gambling became increasingly popular—from card rooms and dice games to slot machines and horse racing. Nevada eventually legalized sports betting to help energize its tourism industry by helping to boost its reputation as a fun destination. However, organized crime became linked to gambling and sports wagering in other states, leading the federal government to enact several pieces of legislation, including the Interstate Wire Act in 1961, which specifically bans the transmission of sports bets across state lines.

In 1992, Congress came down hard on sports betting with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which effectively bans states or governmental entities from legalizing sports wagering. However, this year, PASPA was overturned, leaving it up to states to decide what legislation is appropriate for them. To date, Ohio has no plans for legalizing sports betting.

While gambling has long been part of our nation’s history, it is not right for everyone. Take the Responsible Gambling Quiz to assess your risk for problem gambling—if you find that your gambling is becoming a problem, help is available. Please check the Get Help page for resources in your area or call the Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966.

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