US Casino History
The casino in the United States has a long and often illustrious history. Gambling plays a part in American history from the beginning of the colonies, in the lore of the Wild West, in the history of the underground bars during prohibition, and more. Laws concerning gambling have changed over time, with growing prohibitions against gambling followed by a relaxing of laws.
Attitudes toward gambling varied in the early American colonies. Puritan-founded colonies, not surprisingly, disapproved most strongly of all forms of dice, cards and gaming. Colonies founded by the English were quite tolerant of gambling, and it was treated as an innocent pastime. By the early 1800’s, gambling, and even gaming houses, or casinos, had evolved in the newly founded United States. New Orleans, in particular, was a center for gambling, and casinos and saloons in New Orleans evolved games we still link with the old west, including poker and blackjack.
During the California gold rush, gambling was both legal and widespread, as government offices regulated and licensed the saloon and the casino. Faro, bluff, and dice games were popular. While New Orleans had been the gambling capital of America forty years earlier, San Francisco replaced it as the main site for gambling and casinos due to the free flowing gold of the California gold rush.
During the period between the late 1850’s and early 1900’s, California progressively criminalized gambling. It remained legal in Nevada until 1910; however, the casino never reached the glory in Nevada that it had in San Francisco. Gambling was also criminalized elsewhere in the country during this period. Needless to say, gambling did continue, but it was a phenomenon kept behind closed doors. During the era when gambling was widely illegal, casinos remained in operation in speakeasies, private clubs, and more.
Gambling once again began to be legalized in 1931, starting with Nevada. During the 1930’s, some 21 states legalized racetrack gambling. Gambling continued in Nevada, and with low stakes bingo elsewhere. Casinos began to spring up in Atlantic City, NJ in the late 70’s. In 1987, the Supreme Court made a fundamental decision allowing gambling on Native American reservations, and in the years since, casino gambling has spread throughout the country with modern and thriving casinos in many states. Riverboat casinos began to spring up on major rivers in many states during the same period, bringing gambling full circle to its early roots with riverboat gamblers on the mighty Mississippi in the early 1800’s.