Sports betting is an incredibly popular pastime in the USA and beyond. Since the earliest human civilizations, people have been putting down money on athletic competitions. From Emperor Augustus of Rome, to the average, everyday online sportsbook user, the practice has not veined whatsoever in the 21st century. In fact, it has only grown in popularity. So, in this article, we would like to explore the evolution of sports betting in the USA, from the 20th century all the way until today.

Early History of Sports Betting in the USA

The modern sports betting industry in the United States can be traced to the 19th century. During the 1800s, horse racing dominated the sports world. It was the most popular way to gamble for a long time. However, in the mid-1800s, a new development in sports led to horse racing’s dethronement. The first baseball game took place in America.

The American Baseball League formed in 1901, and citizens quickly became drawn to this magnificent sport. Still, to this day, baseball is a part of American culture and tradition, commonly referred to as “America’s favorite pastime.”

The early 20th century also marked another considerable development in the gambling world. That is, the founding of Las Vegas, which led to the creation of some of the largest casinos in the US and the formation of the American sports betting and gambling industry as we know it today.

Crime and Gambling

Las Vegas, commonly called Sin City, is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the United States. Extravagance, splendor, and gambling are all words we connect with this glorious city. However, in the early-to-mid 20th century, Vegas was just another town. It wasn’t until Bugsy Siegel, a big-name gangster, and Mafioso took an interest in the city that it developed into the Las Vegas we know today.

From that point of view, the history of gambling/betting and organized crime are forever linked in the USA. While Bugsy’s influence on Las Vegas cannot be understated, the mob presence in the city today has largely diminished. Hotel and Resort chains now own most of Las Vegas’ top casinos. However, for anyone interested in history, the Las Vegas “Mafia Museum” covers the complete story of the Mob era of Las Vegas.


After the development of the Las Vegas Strip, the Nevada government saw the potential in a vibrant gambling industry. In 1949 sports betting and gambling were fully legalized in the state, and US citizens from all over the country flocked to the city to test their luck. The move hugely influenced the legalization of gambling throughout the country, leading to the dozens of tribal casinos, casino resorts, and of course, bookies that we now take for granted.

Late-20th Century

By the late 70s and early 80s, gambling and sports betting had already become standard practice in the United States. And with the development of digital and computer sciences, a new form of gambling was already entering the public consciousness. Online sports betting and gambling put down their roots and have been growing ever since.

The Impact of Technology on Sports Betting

The 1990s were a “cyber” decade. The internet had just started and become more available to the public. And though not nearly as impressive as today, the world wide web was no longer a prospect. During the 90s, web poker games first hit the popular consciousness. People could play poker online without even leaving their homes. Soon, online bookies started making the rounds as well. And by the early 2000s, online casinos were already bringing diversity to their gaming library. These were the infant stages of what has now grown to be the iGaming industry.

The United States is a country with a deep passion for sports. From American football to baseball to boxing, Americans love watching people compete in physical challenges for a title. And not only has the internet made it easier to follow these sports, but it has also made it easier to bet on them. Online sportsbooks are a trendy aspect of iGaming, especially since the advent of the smartphone.

Mobile sports betting is only possible thanks to the technology that goes into creating a smartphone. We walk around with a miniature computer in our pockets. We have constant access to the internet thanks to public Wi-Fi networks. And now, thanks to sportsbook apps, we can have constant access to a fair and trustworthy bookie.


Modern Sports Betting Landscape

In 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling to ban sports betting on a federal level. Meaning there is no federal law that prohibits wagering. Since then, most US states have legalized land-based sports betting and online wagering. Gamblers can now visit their local bookies, download some safe and licensed bookmaking apps, and place wagers on their favorite sports.

And speaking of favorite sports, what do Americans love to bet on? Well, football is the obvious choice. Known throughout most of the world as “American football,” the game is intrinsically linked to the country. Basketball is another big name. And while there are quite a few similar games, none come even close to the popularity of b-ball. We already mentioned baseball as America’s favorite pastime. Major League Baseball is one of the biggest sports leagues in the USA today. Apart from the big three, other sports that get major betting traffic in the USA include the following:

  • Soccer
  • Hockey
  • Boxing
  • MMA
  • Horse Racing
  • Tennis
  • Golf

While sports betting is most legal online and offline, the same can’t be said for gambling. Most US states prohibit online casinos. US residents can still use VPNs to play on offshore websites. It is worth noting that playing at offshore casinos is not illegal, as laws only prohibit owning and operating online gambling websites and not online gambling itself.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the history of sports betting in the United States has been a long and complex journey, from its early days in Las Vegas casinos to its current popularity on online betting sites. As technology continues to evolve, the sports betting industry is poised for continued growth and innovation, making it an exciting time for fans and bettors alike