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History of Sports Betting

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History of Sports betting in the American Culture
Sport betting was a natural part of the culture of the early Americans. Between then and now, the sport betting industry has dramatically increased in popularity and has adapted with changes along the way. Americans, as a society, often frown upon anything to do with gambling and view it as a vice, however, there are some advantages to what the Sports Betting industry can offer should it be made legal. Sports betting(and gambling in general) can lead to a destructive lifestyle, is the cause of many strained relationships as well as cause a huge deficit of debt for someone, among other consequences. Americans know these ramifications and continue to part take in the action but obviously not for those reasons. Sport betting socially has its benefits as well such as winning money, fun and excitement, and even getting out of debt. Sports betting in America is a national past time in its own right and the idea of legalizing it has been a constant battle among it’s lawmakers.
The founders of the United States were risk-takers by nature, hence the obvious attraction to gambling in all forms. Back then, people bet on makeshift horse races, cockfights and bare-knuckle brawls since there was not much else. Colonists from England had gambling in their blood since their fathers and grandfathers had been doing it for generations - not only in hopes of a profit but also as a form on leisure and entertainment(California Libraries, Web). If there was a sport to be played, there was somebody somewhere who was willing to bet on it. In regards to sports betting, horse racing saw the most wide spread popularity throughout the 19th Century and into the early 20th Century(Martin, 2012). In its initial stages racing was a sport that was enjoyed and wagered on by mostly the upper class but after the Civil War, horse tracks began to populate the eastern landscape and bettors from all economic sectors flocked to the tracks. By the 1920s racing had reached its peak and there were more than 300 racetracks in the U.S(Martin, 2012). Horse racing remained the most popular form of betting until professional sports leagues began forming and capturing the attention of the nation's gamblers. In the late 1800s, professional baseball began to gain popularity and, consequently, so did betting on the sport.
Baseball remained the king of sports betting into the 1920s when other sports started to see a rise in popularity (Moody, 2013), which naturally led to an increase in wagering during the so-called "Golden Age" of sports. (The decade of the 1920's is often referred to as the Golden Age of Sports because a time when America and the world wanted to put the memory of the Great War behind them and enjoy life.) (Peta, Trading Bases). However, A fixing disgrace in the 1919 World Series - dubbed the 'BlackSox Scandal' by the media -- exposed the risk of professional baseball to be compromised by gamblers(Ginsburg, 1995). Some players from the favored Chicago White Sox were found to have fixed games at the request of gamblers (Chicago lost the series to Cincinnati, 5-3). The scandal rocked the nation and the general public was given a negative impression of sports bettors, who were made out to look like criminals who were trying to ruin the sanctity of the game for their own monetary advancement. While gambling was illegal, most considered sports betting to be a victimless crime before the scandal broke.
The one problem with betting on games during that time was that games were bet with odds and if a bettor liked a prohibitive favorite, they could find themselves risking $10 or $20 to win $1. That was, until the concept of the point spread was introduced. Many people in the sports betting industry give credit to Charles K. McNeil(Vaccaro, 2012) as the pioneer of point spreads. A point spread is a forecast of the number of points by which a stronger team is expected to defeat a weaker one by. McNeil, an alumni of University of Chicago who became a bank analyst, realized shortly after, he was making more money playing and setting odds on certain sporting events(point spreads). He was the pioneer and as such the only one doing it at the time, drawing in a huge chunk of the Chicago betting world. Thus, as his system rapidly dispersed becoming the more preferred way to bet, it was naturally adopted by all bookkeepers in the Chicago area subsequently making its way to the betting capital of the world – Las Vegas. The implementation of the point spread, along with the widespread emergence of television in the 1950s, can be referenced as two factors that perpetuated the massive growth of sports betting during this era. More games were offered by bookies and people could actually watch the contests they bet on at home or their local tavern.
In America in the late 1960s, sports betting took a turn for the better, with the introduction of televised sports. This marked the beginning of a financial phenomenon and a new breed of sports betting enthusiast was born. In 1974 the US federal government eliminated a 10% tax on sports betting wagers(Tuohy, 2010). This caused several land-based casinos to open “Sportsbooks” within the casino as a sideline attraction to prevent patrons from leaving the casino to place sports wagers elsewhere. It also helps maintain high revenues during the slow periods of the year for the casinos. The Stardust Hotel in Nevada was the first major casino to make this move. The opening of their in-house Sportsbook in 1976 was a huge success and helped set the pace for sports betting action worldwide. With the introduction of the Internet in the 1990s, sports betting quickly shifted online and soared to new heights as more and more online Sportsbooks set up shop in offshore countries such as Antigua and Costa Rica. Not to be outdone, England also jumped on the sports betting band wagon, piggy-backing on the success of sports betting in the United States and later dominating it with the fall out of sports betting in America. This was due to the long-standing grey area associated with offshore gambling as well as the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
No longer did the sports bettor need to visit his local bookie to place a bet nor did he need to travel to a land-based casino. Sports odds were now easily accessible online and bettors reveled in the fact that they could place a bet from the comfort of their own home. The icing on the cake was that getting money to and from the online Sportsbooks was made even easier than the initial Credit Card, Western Union, and Cheque payment options. As the popularity of Internet betting grew so too did the payment options as payment processors began developing newer, faster, and cheaper ways to transfer funds. By 2005 Sportsbooks were taking in almost $100 Billion in online sports wagers, with sports bets holding the majority. Today, Sportsbetting activities have dwindled considerably. This was due to the tireless efforts of federal governments and agencies, especially those in the United States, to clamp down on Internet gambling. Tactics such as seizing private bank accounts believed to have been funded with monies from sports wagers, suing payment processors, and indicting persons associated with offshore gambling operations to name a few, were used to stagnate the growth of Internet gambling. To some extent it has worked. However, like our forefathers before us, most of us are bettors by nature, whether for fun or to make money.
Today, betting on sports is more popular then ever before. “To say gambling on sports in the United States is popular is an understatement. In 2011, there was 3.17 billion wagered on sports – just in Nevada”(Peta, Pg 83). That is just a small percentage, however, of the money bet nationwide. An ESPN The Magazine article published in 2003 estimated that the online sports betting industry takes in $63 billion a year. It has also been estimated that one in every four Americans bets on a sporting event at least once a year and that 15 percent of the U.S. population bets on sports regularly(American Gaming Association, 2013). Despite the government's attempts to stifle sports betting, all signs point to its continued growth. Gambling is legal in almost every state in some form; whether it's casinos, horse racing, OTBs or government-run lotteries. As gambling interest and growth in general increase everywhere most feel that sports betting will follow suit. As a recreational activity that has been around since long before our country was founded, it doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. Millions of others participate outside of these legal settings, without government protections, leaving themselves vulnerable to unscrupulous characters and depriving states and municipalities of untold millions in lost revenue that could be supporting critical services that are endangered by the slumping economy.
Should Sports betting be made legal in The United States

Sports betting has been around forever and will continue to play a great role in the American society. Millions and billions of dollars are wagered annually throughout the United States, both legally and illegally. It is often a topic of discussion among lawmakers of whether it would be a good idea for betting to be made legal nationwide. Some figure that since so many people do it already, legalizing it would administer more control and provide many other benefits. The opposing side, though, justifies its stance with the many downsides and devastation that a gambling life could encompass. There are many benefits as well as detriments to both sides of this discussion, but as it stands right now, the upside to legalizing betting in America does not outweigh its counterpart.
Why is betting is so inviting? Many love the challenge and adrenaline rushes that sports betting and other forms of gambling bring. Although not believed to be socially acceptable by many, betting is an activity that is often done socially. Home poker games involving a bunch of friends getting together to play cards have always been popular among gentleman. These often include a lot of food and drinks, with laughter and good times. They serve the same purpose as going out to the movies or going bowling - to have fun. Betting on a game with a group of friends such as a round of golf or a football game is also very common. This provides some friendly competition and often includes trash-talking, fun, and more laughter along the way. Betting is also something that most of the time doesn't require much physical success, so it can be participated in at a very young age. It would seem that when betting on something that would normally be uninteresting or boring, creates a stimulation of very enjoyable emotions.
It has been proven how much of a money maker sports wagering is in Nevada and Atlantic City where most legal sportbooks are located. Millions of people participate outside of these legal settings, however, without government protections, leaving themselves vulnerable to unscrupulous(I thesaurus’d that word ) characters and depriving states and municipalities of untold millions in lost revenue that could be supporting critical services that are endangered by the slumping economy. A study done by Nevada University said of the estimated $400 million online bets for the 2009 Super Bowl, only $98 million were legal. That is barely over 5 percent! In 1999, the National Gaming Impact Study Commission estimated that illegal sports wagering was as much as $380 billion(accumulated). Nevada sports books have been in a steady decline over the past decade ( According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, revenues have dropped six out of the last seven years across the state. It is no secret that this can be attributed in part to the massive growth of the offshore industry. But critics of Nevada sports betting - and Las Vegas in particular -- point to other factors as well. The consolidation of the casinos by corporations has created an atmosphere where there are only a handful of sports books releasing their own numbers while the rest are just satellite offices of their main book. This reduces the opportunity to shop around for numbers and increases the attractiveness of offshore books where a wide variety of point spreads are available on a wide array of sports.
In todays world, it is so easy to place a bet that it can be done online at the convenience of one's home in the forms of online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks, such as “” and “”. Betting on sports has dramatically grown and will continue to do as as it becomes more and more convenient. The Super Bowl is the most widely bet on game in the world. According to the American Gaming Association, an estimated $8 billion was wagered last year on the Super Bowl. March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament involving 64 college basketball teams, is second with an estimated $2.5 billion dollars bet during the tournament. These figures, however, do not include the estimated billions of dollars bet illegally. Turning this into a legal venture would not only give bettors assurances that they are on a fair playing field with proper legal recourse but It also allows the state to bring in millions--in the long run, billions--that would have otherwise gone to those engaged in god knows what. If sports betting was made legal than the government and sports industry could oversee any possible wrongdoing and stop the possible corruption that betting could create. Not only that, but the obvious taxing on the wagers could be a tremendous aid to our ever-dwindling economy. In Sports betting, and gambling in general, is looked upon as a vice in the American culture. Opponents to legalizing betting say that legalizing it would encourage gambling, a habit with many negative side effects, and that sports wagering would jeopardize the integrity of the sports (the NFL is a particularly vocal opponent of legalizing sports betting, though some speculate this is because it would put extra pressure on referees to make the correct calls). Gambling can be defined as any behavior involving the risk of money or valuables on the outcome of a game, contest, or other event( Not only is gambling an extremely popular activity, it is also very expensive and sometimes a devastating one. Although it occasionally turns that lucky person into a millionaire, it much more often throws a person into a financial ruin forcing them to dig out of holes sometimes too deep to recover from. So why do people gamble if the chance of losing and the pain that it can cause is so much greater than the chance of winning and the happiness that comes with it? Even though it can bring much pain and misfortune to a person, ruining his/her future, it is still a big part of many people's lives. People sometimes knowingly get into a betting lifestyle fully aware of the potential dangers but still proceed with it. This is because many people believe they can win more than they can lose. For example, after a person buys a lottery ticket, they immediately begin to think what they would do with the money despite their very small chance of winning. This is because it is because it is human nature to go for a risk if it has great rewards, and lawmakers currently believe that if gambling was to be made legal, it would do more harm then good to the American society regardless of the potential revenue that is at stake. Although it is possible for sports bettors to win over an extended period of time, only a small portion of the population can actually achieve this feat. Lem Banker, who has been prominent in the Southern Nevada sports betting scene for more than four decades, issues some words of warning for anybody interested in attempting to bet sports professionally: "You have a better shot at becoming a rock star or a movie star than being a successful sports bettor." Whether someone bets on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, or slots—in a casino or online—gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial catastrophe. It just isn’t worth it.


1) Vaccaro, Jimmy. "The History of Sports Betting, Part I,II,III." The Linemakers., 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

2) Carter, David M. Money Games: Profiting from the Convergence of Sports and Entertainment. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2011. Print.

3) Moody, Allen. Becoming a Winning Gambler. North Charleston, SC: Createspace Independent Pub., 2013. Print.

4) Ginsburg, Daniel E. The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1995. Print.

5) Savage, Jeff. A Sure Thing?: Sports and Gambling. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, 1997. Print

6) Tuohy, Brian. The Fix Is In: The Showbiz Manipulations of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR. Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2010. Print.

7) Betting the Line: Sports Wagering in American Life Paperback." Betting the Line: Sports Wagering in American Life: Richard O. Davies, Richard G. Abram: Books. 2009. Print

8) Associated Press"History of Gambling in the United States." History of Gambling in the United States. California Libraries, 15 Jan. 2007. Web. 19 Sept. 2013

9) Martin, Jeremy. "Sports Betting History - Vegas Sports Betting Information." Sports Betting History - Vegas Sports Betting Information. DocSports, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

10) Peta, Joe. Trading Bases: A Story about Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball (not Necessarily in That Order) :. New York: Dutton, 2013. Print.

11) Smith, Robert James. How to Beat the Pro Football Pointspread: A Comprehensive, No-nonsense Guide to Picking NFL Winners. New York: Skyhorse Pub., 2008. Print.

12) Grossman, Larry. You Can Bet on It!: How to Get Maximum Value for Your Gambling Dollar! Las Vegas, NV: L. Grossman, 1994. Print

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Chariot Racing in Ancient History

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