Many of the games played today have their origins in ancient cultures. In fact, many games can be found in different cultures around the world with only slight variations. People have placed wagers on games of chance since the beginning of history.
The popular game keno has been played in China for more than two thousand years. The Chinese name for the game then was pak kop fiu, which means "white pigeon ticket." Pigeons were trained to fly the tickets and winning numbers back and forth between the player and the lottery office.
The game of blackjack (also known as "twenty-one") has its roots in the 15th century. The French, Spanish, and Italian people all had their own version of this card game, though the total winning number was different for each country.
Immigrants brought the games of chance of their native countries to America, but this form of recreation has always had its opponents in the United States. Gambling became a legal way to pass the time beginning in the 19th century. In 1869 Nevada attempted to control gambling within its borders by making it legal. For more than 40 years, from 1869 to 1910, that state permitted gambling. However, a reform movement banned gambling for the next 21 years until 1931, when Nevada made gambling legal again. Currently, many states have legal lotteries, which often earmark a percentage of the earnings for special programs or state development projects. Churches, schools, and social organizations often run "Las Vegas Nights" to raise money for programs, and many churches have weekly bingo games.
In the United States, serious, high-stakes games are played especially in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Large industries have grown and developed in these two cities to accommodate the needs and desires of the gambler. Now many large hotel chains have opened resorts and casinos in these cities to benefit from the gambling trade. A trend in Las Vegas is for hotels to open enormous resorts that cater not only to gamblers, but to their families as well. Other states, such as Colorado and South Dakota, have realized the impact of gambling as an industry, and now allow casinos.
These cities and states, however, no longer have a monopoly on legalized gambling.
Many Native American tribes around the country, exercising their rights as sovereign nations, have established large casinos that attract many customers to their territories. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 legalized gambling on reservations as a way to help Native Americans raise revenues. This act also defined tribal gambling into three classes. Classes I and II allow for traditional, or ceremonial games, bingo, and some card games. Class III allows for casino operations. Tribal nations must first enter a compact, or agreement, with the state regarding type and regulation of games and activities. There are approximately 245 federally recognized gaming tribes with a total of 445 gaming operations in 29 states. Some of the most successful Native American casinos include the Mystic Lake Casino in Minnesota and Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.
Casinos located offshore are known as riverboat casinos—many of which are actual riverboats that cruise up and down the river. Some states that border the Mississippi River, including Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri, now allow riverboat gambling. Riverboats enable gambling to exist in states that do not allow traditional gambling venues, since the casinos rest on water, and not land.
Horse racing, known as the Sport of Kings, is another popular form of gambling. There are four types of organized racing held at licensed tracks worldwide—thoroughbred, harness, and quarter horse racing run flat races, a race without jumps; obstacle racing is held on courses with steeplechases and hurdles. Tracks in the United States have a para-mutuel system of betting—the odds on a horse are determined by the amount of money wagered on that horse as compared to the other horses in the race. Pari-mutuel wagering is legal in 40 states. Once betting is closed, usually at the start of the race, the wagers are electronically tabulated and the final odds computed. While most states allow for on-track betting, some states have legalized off-track betting. As their names imply, off-track parlors, or OTBs, are located away from the track. Customers can bet on the day's races via live television simulcasts. Other forms of pari-mutuel wagering include dog racing and jai alai.
State lotteries are part of the gaming industry. Most states have daily and weekly drawings; some hold drawings in conjunction with other states, such as the Powerball lottery. States use lottery systems to raise revenues that are often earmarked for state programs such as schools.
Internet gambling has become yet another gambling option. Games on the Internet are similar to those found at traditional casinos. The only difference is location—a player can gamble in the comfort of his or her home. It is currently illegal to set up Internet gambling services in the United States, except in Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, where it is allowed. (Several other state legislatures are in the process of introducing bills that would legalize online gaming.) However, a growing number of countries, such as England, Australia, New Zealand, and France, allow and license Internet gambling services. Many consumers visit these sites daily, including players from the United States (in fact, U.S. consumers placed $3 billion in online bets in 2012 (the most recent year for which data is available), according to the American Gaming Association). To date, legislation supporting the legalization of Internet gambling has been carried to the United States Congress, though unsuccessfully. It has been argued that certain factors, mainly the impossibility of banning Internet gambling on an international level and the public's insatiable demand for gambling, may bring future legalization, not prohibition, of this activity. Among issues against Internet gambling is its disconcerting lack of control and regulation. The debate regarding this form of gambling is far from over.
The following states offer legal sports betting: Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Approximately 30 states are considering legalizing sports betting.
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