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THE HISTORY OF GAMBLING IN THE UNITED STATES
Benjamin Franklin organized a Pennsylvania lottery in 1748 to help raise money for military supplies to defend Philadelphia against the French and Indians.
In 1964, the first state-run lottery debuted in New Hampshire. Today, lotteries are established in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Gambling and the frontier lifestyle shared similar foundations — a spirit of adventure, opportunity, and risk taking. During the early 1800s gambling in the lower Mississippi Valley became a legitimate and organized enterprise. The Mississippi River and connected waterways were major avenues of trade for farmers and merchants and the river boats carried passengers who had lots of cash. The south tended to have a more open attitude towards gaming, reflecting the Spanish, French, and early Virginian traditions. New Orleans became the capital for gambling.
The demise of the riverboat gambler had more to do with circumstance than direct action by the people. Emergence of railroads and the outbreak of the Civil War were the precipitating factors. Travel by steamboats declined as railroads started to supplant steamboats as the favored method of transportation. Trains were more reliable and were faster than the riverboats. The Civil War interrupted virtually all river travel and abruptly diminished gambling in that area.
Horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering began to make a comeback. In 1933, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, and California legalized pari-mutuel betting. The California Legislature adopted a statute in 1933 referred to as the Horse Racing Act. The statutes took effect upon adoption by the voters of an amendment to the Constitution in June of 1933. During the 1930’s, 21 states brought back racetracks. The greyhound industry began in 1919 with the first track in Emeryville, California. Today there are 49 tracks operating in 15 states. Greyhound racing is responsible for approximately 14 percent of the total handle of pari-mutuel betting.
Full-scale gambling became legal in 1931 – at the height of the Great Depression – when Nevada earned the right to legalize gambling as a way to raise state revenue and stimulate the economy without raising taxes. Then, after the close of World War II, the United States saw a significant boom in gambling activity.
Many casinos in Nevada were financed by mobsters. Most notable perhaps was Las Vegas’ Flamingo which was opened in 1947 by Bugsy Siegel. Even though he had an extensive and violent criminal record, Bugsy Siegel was able to get a gaming license. Most notable of his criminal exploits was his role in arranging the murder of New York mobster "Dutch" Schultz by the infamous "Murder Inc." Today, even the hint of any such activity would be sufficient to deny a license.
In 1978, New Jersey became the second state to legalize casino gambling in an attempt to revitalize the rundown resort area of Atlantic City. The legalization was restricted only to Atlantic City. In the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, Atlantic City was a popular resort town, boosted by the new rail service which linked the Northeast. Day trips to the Jersey shore were now possible and affordable. But its popularity dwindled when air travel became easily accessible. Upscale tourists chose beach resorts in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean over Atlantic City. Casino gaming was expected to be a way for Atlantic City to become a popular tourist destination once again.
The comeback of Riverboat casinos is a relatively new, and uniquely American, phenomenon. Riverboat casinos began operating in Iowa in 1991, and quickly expanded throughout the Midwest. By 1998 there were over 40 riverboat casinos in operation in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and nearly 50 riverboat and dockside casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi.
In 1979, the Seminole tribes started organized Bingo games on the reservations. This was the first Native American experience with organized gambling for profit
In 1987, the United States Supreme Court decided what was arguably to be the most important case dealing with gambling in American history. In California vs. the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, In 2006, there were 300 Native American Indian groups hosting gaming activities Today, there are Indian-owned casinos in 31 states.