Gambling has been a popular pastime throughout history, and indeed the earliest evidence of people playing games of chance dates back as far as the Palaeolithic era. The Mesopotamians were one of the first societies to create dice in around 3000 BCE, but it is thought that even these were based on similar items called astragali from thousands of years before.
Other traditional forms of gambling include betting on the outcome of fighting animals, which became popular in China around 3000 years ago, with dominoes and lotto games proliferating during the following millennium. There are many similar stories about the spread of gambling from ancient cultures throughout the world to every country worldwide.
The history of gambling in the UK and USA
In the United Kingdom, there have been laws about gambling since the Unlawful Games Act of 1541 which made almost all gambling illegal for fear of it being a distraction from military training. Subsequent acts were passed in the 1700s to try and regulate lotteries and other games, but it wasn’t until 1845 that gaming houses were able to operate legally.
Subsequent laws refined the legislation surrounding different forms of gambling, regulating horse and greyhound racing and paving the way for the increasingly popular football pools and in 1960, the Betting and Gaming Act legalised private casinos.
In contrast, gambling was popular in the United States in the 1600s, with the upper classes favouring horse racing for more than one hundred years and landowners writing their own rules for how the systems should work. As the 18th century progressed, however, religious activism declared that gambling was sinful and began to exert pressure to minimise the opportunities for gambling.
Although the original thirteen colonies used lotteries as a form of taxation, to generate revenue to keep them funded, the British crown sought to limit this activity. Although there was plenty of opposition to this idea, the religious movement gained traction resulting in several states banning games of chance altogether.
Defying the claims of immorality, New Orleans offered visitors the chance to gamble on riverboats, putting physical distance and bodies of water between keen gamers and law enforcement. However, the religious movement took hold and gambling was still largely frowned upon until the state of Nevada legalised it in order to raise money in the aftermath of the Great Depression.
Soon, Las Vegas became a global gambling capital, despite most of the rest of the country retaining restrictions that made most forms of gambling illegal. However, the USA had finally joined other countries that had been enjoying the lucrative results of legalised gambling for years. These include:
- New Zealand
These countries are among the biggest in terms of their gambling markets, with many of them generating substantial tax revenues from their gaming industries. Countries that are now relaxing their laws, such as the US, are beginning to see the benefits of nurturing a home-grown gambling industry, as reported by OLBG.
In other countries that still have a much more restrictive approach to gambling, there are sometimes cultural reasons for the ban. In some middle Eastern countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Brunei, gambling is restricted for cultural reasons as it is ethically at odds with the way their society is structured.
Other countries, such as Korea, take an unconventional approach to gambling, which is illegal for natives, but tourists are allowed to indulge as part of guided tours. Similarly, in Japan, gambling has been illegal for decades, until recently when the restrictions were relaxed to allow sports betting and the opening of some casinos.
The impact of legalising gambling
In countries that have legalised gambling, there are obvious financial benefits as taxation contributes to the government coffers. Legalising gambling also created legitimate employment opportunities and lessens the scope for illegal black market gambling operations to thrive.
The huge growth in online gambling has made it increasingly difficult for countries to legislate against as gamers with access to the internet can legitimately game on sites based in different jurisdictions. This has encouraged many countries, including the US, to reconsider their hard-line stance on banning gambling and relax their rules to reflect the changes brought in by the technological revolution.
Malta is one example of how gambling can contribute to the overall economy of a country. When the Maltese government decided to embrace the burgeoning online gaming industry, they created a demand for their prestigious gaming licenses that has seen their small island become a major player on the international gambling scene.
With a gambling industry that accounts for more than a tenth of the country’s GDP, Malta’s forward-thinking approach to gambling has had a significant positive effect on the country’s finances and employment outlook. Their rigorous approach to regulating gambling has actually created a thriving industry which issues licenses to operators all over the world.
Countries that have created a legal framework for gambling, both online and offline, have ultimately secured their places in an industry that is hugely lucrative and fast-growing.