For a nation which is home to the world capital of gambling in Las Vegas, the United States has an approach to the activity that could well be described as conflicted. On the one hand there’s all the razzle dazzle of so-called Sin City. On the other there are states like Kentucky, home to one of the world’s biggest horse races, but where almost all types of gambling are forbidden. Let’s take a look at how far gambling has come in the US – and where it might be headed in the future.
The history of gambling in the US
Gambling also has a long history in the country right from when the very first settlers started to colonise the country. The French brought with them games like roulette and chemin de fer and the British had an equally strong tradition of gaming houses where gentlemen could enjoy a refined wager or two.
The French influence meant that one of the first cities to really take gambling to its heart was New Orleans and this soon spread up the Mississippi, often on its iconic steamboats. During the gold rush of the mid-19th century the focus turned to San Francisco but the state soon reacted and tightened up its laws considerably. For somewhere that is so liberal in many other areas it’s surprising that it remains fairly strict – for example only allowing a set number of card houses to operate in which players can only compete against each other, not the house.
It was in the 1930s that gambling finally came of age. The building of the Hoover Dam in Nevada brought in a huge influx of workers, well paid despite the prevailing Great Depression and away from home. So Nevada in general, and Las Vegas in particular, seized on the opportunity to offer them the excitement they craved and in 1931 gambling was legalized across the state.
Fast forward nearly a century and it still leads the way – although there are signs that the parts of the country may be gearing up to become more liberal.