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History of American Sports Betting

Paul Robinson provides a brief history of American sports betting.

Sport and betting are something that is never too far away from one another. The modern sports betting industry attracts people from far and wide, with billions of dollars annually put on the line at various boxing arenas, sports stadiums, athletic tracks and golf courses all over the world. The global sports betting industry appears to be showing no signs of slowing down and is quickly becoming one of the most popular activities in the United States of America since its legalisation in 2018, so let's take a look at how the industry made its way from behind closed doors and into the mainstream in a safe and secure way.

Early Days

Gambling gained momentum in America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, directly influenced by the rise in popularity of Major League Baseball and competitive boxing. It found itself in what could be described as a grey area, in which it was not exactly legal, but little was done to actively stamp it out.

The Black Sox Scandal

However, this all changed in 1920 because of what is now known as the Black Sox Scandal. It has remained one of the biggest scandals in American sports history and centered around eight Chicago White Sox players. After lengthy investigations, it was revealed that the eight players in question had been bribed to lose the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was appointed as the first Commissioner of Baseball in 1920 and was tasked with reinstalling integrity to the game of baseball.

As a direct result of the Black Sox scandal, and the subsequent appointed of Landis, the United States government made a huge effort to eradicate bookmakers from the country, making it illegal for anyone to take a sports bet. While bets were still accepted behind closed doors and off-shore, the project was deemed a national success and Landis was hailed as the saviour of baseball.

The Stopgap

Sports betting remained illegal in America except when it became legal in the state of Nevada in the 1930s, giving it a major head start over the rest of the country and allowing it to become synonymous with gambling, even to this day. The federal legislation that banned sports betting was called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), and was signed into action in 1992, preventing new states from legalizing sports betting. This Act did not apply to the states in which sports betting was already allowed, meaning Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon.

A Bright Future

However, once sports betting was well regulated and had separated itself from match-fixing, attitudes on the matter began softening. In 2011, New Jersey held a referendum to legalize sports betting by amending the state constitution. The vote passed, but several pro sports league sued the state of New Jersey, arguing that it directly violated PASPA. Despite widespread support from all sectors, sports betting remained illegal in New Jersey. However, after continuing efforts to legalise sports betting, the supreme court eventually ruled in favour of New Jersey and repealed PASPA on May 14, 2018. This allowed each state to make its laws when it came to sports betting.

Now, you can bet on sports legally and safely in a large number of American states, with more and more working to introduce legalised sports gambling systems. The economic benefits of legalised sports betting have already been huge in the United States of America. The U.S. will be looking to the United Kingdom as inspiration when it comes to developing a safe and secure mobile betting market, with it likely to become one of the world's biggest due to the size of its economy.

The legalisation of sports betting has been a huge success, and not just when it comes to the economy and employment – but for entertainment too!


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • ROBINSON, P. (2020) History of American Sports Betting [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article546.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Paul Robinson is an online marketer having good knowledge of gambling, sports and games related topics. He is a good gambling player as well.

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