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May 22, 2024
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The Development of American Gambling Laws

Gambling is a hot topic in the US. Due to its increasing popularity, the field of gambling is drawing more and more people in. Because of this, having a good understanding of gambling-related laws is important not only for gaming operators but also for people who are approaching the world of gambling for the first time.

In this article, we provide a short overview of the development of American gaming laws, show how they changed over time and then provide a clear image of the current situation. 

Colonial Era to the 19th Century

During the colonial period, gambling was often considered a social activity. Because of this reason, in early American colonies, gambling was generally tolerated, even though it had various regulations to consider. 

As time passed, concerns increased about the social and moral implications of gambling, and in the early 19th century, the first anti-gambling laws were proclaimed in some states like Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. 

Mid-19th Century to Post-Civil War

The aforementioned anti-gambling laws were promoted because of religious and moral concerns about the implications of gambling. Because of this, many states started passing some extremely strict anti-gambling laws and, in fact, managed to ban most forms of gambling. 

As the Civil War hit, people experienced a temporary relaxation of gambling laws, mostly due to the need for revenue and the extraordinary circumstances in which people were living day by day. As we reached the late part of the 19th century, states began to legalize and regulate gambling again, even though this was only the case for certain forms of gambling, such as lotteries.

Similarly, the passion for horse racing also led to the legalization of that kind of gambling, but only in some American states. Interestingly, the next turn of the century saw a renewed wave of anti-gambling energy, which culminated in the nationwide prohibition of gambling due to the Prohibition era. 

Post-Prohibition Era to the 20th Century

Prohibition ended in 1933 and that was when some states began to develop legalized gambling, again in the form of lotteries. During this period of time, people started looking at Las Vegas as a gambling haven and because of this, Nevada became the first state to fully legalize casino gambling, already in 1931.

As the 20th century progressed, many states started considering the legalization of several gambling forms due to their lucrative potential and the need for revenue. This was not the case for combat sports betting, though, as with the Wire Act, conducted in 1961, they remained illegal. 

20th century and 21st century

Native Americans, thanks to the new gaming regulatory act promoted in 1988, could operate casinos on their reservations, even though there were still some conditions to be respected. In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, also known as PASPA, prohibited sports betting in most states, but it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018.

Current Times

The 21st century has seen a broad development of legal gambling in the United States, where many states have actually legalized and regulated sports betting as well as casino gambling and online gambling, of course. Now you can pay for real money online at casino sites such as betMGM, Borgata, and more in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan. The trend is to expand to other states, such as New York and California by 2026.

As this landscape continues to evolve, there are ongoing discussions about federal versus state regulations, also due to the growth of online gambling platforms, which revolutionized the world of gambling as we know it. 

Due to the digital revolution, we will see more and more changes in the world of gambling soon, and we will most likely witness an enhanced participation of artificial intelligence in the world of gambling and, most of all, online gambling.

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