History of Sports betting
Recent studies show that one in four Americans will place a sports bet this year and the Las Vegas figure of $2 billion dollars bet in a year pails in comparison to an estimated $63 billion dollars that will be bet online in the same time frame. With that huge amount in mind, let’s take a look how we got to this point and the history of sports betting in general.
Las Vegas gambling was legalized in 1931 but in the early days the only places to get a bet in were called “turf clubs” and were nothing like the sophisticated sportsbooks that are in the town nowadays. With the government imposing a 10 percent tax on bets at this time, it was impossible for the clubs to offer anything close to a standard -110 line and the customers had to pay much more in commission then they do now.
It wasn’t until 1958 when a reputed Chicago gangster by the name of Sam “Momo” Giancana got sports betting started big in Las Vegas at the Stardust. Between the ties to the mob and incidents like the 1919 World Series in which Chicago White Sox players were caught being bought off by sports bettors, gambling really did not have a good reputation in the early years.
As more and more sporting events began to get televised in the ‘70s, sports betting really took off and started to gain mainstream popularity but it wasn’t until 1974 when the United States government deemed the 10 percent tax unconstitutional when the ability to place a wager become commonplace. With the elimination of the 10 percent tax, Las Vegas sportsbooks began to pop up everywhere and it became much easier to get a bet down on a more level playing field without getting ripped off by your bookie’s odds.
The Stardust again was at the center of the sports betting world as Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, played by Robert Deniro in the movie “Casino”, started to develop the crown jewel of Las Vegas sportsbooks. With 300 bettors and 6 huge televisions regularly at the sportsbook at the Stardust, Rosenthal really set the tone for the current Las Vegas landscape which has sportsbooks in most hotels.
As Vegas started to get bigger in the ‘80s, online gambling took off with the invent of the internet. Although it was limited to just a few sportsbooks in the early years and was never really a threat to the Las Vegas income at the time, it has become a force to be reckoned with currently. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of online sportsbooks currently and you can place a bet from almost anywhere in the world. Although the legality of placing a bet on the internet is still up in the air thanks to the internet not being around when the original law was passed which outlawed betting outside Las Vegas in the United States, the government only seems concerned about going after the people who run the offshore sportsbooks who travel across American borders.
Pete Rose would cast another black eye on sports betting in 1989 when he was given a permanent ban from being associated in any way with the sport of baseball. Rose admitted at the time that he bet on the Cincinnati Reds while managing the team. A similar incident in 1994 was caused when Arizona State’s men’s basketball team was involved in allegations that they were shaving points. With the help of Las Vegas bookmakers, who became concerned after more and more people began to bet large sums of money on Sun Devils games, the players were dealt with and the whole situation was the last major American sports betting scandal before NBA referee Tim Donaghy plead guilty to two federal charges for attempting to influence the outcome of games to appease certain people who were wagering money on the NBA games.
Thoughts for future
The future looks bright for online sports betting as it becomes more and more mainstream. An increasing amount of online advertising has drawn new customers into the sports betting world and certain sportsbooks are even getting into mixed martial arts promotions and other non-conventional investments. With no end in site to the boom with the staggering amount of money that is bet online each year, look for sports betting to finish the move out of the dark ages and become a regular part in day-to-day Americana.