From Saloons to Casinos: Tracing the Evolution of Land-Based Gambling in the Old West

From Saloons to Casinos: Tracing the Evolution of Land-Based Gambling in the Old West

The changed gambling landscape today would have been unimaginable had the Internet not intervened. Who could have thought 50 years ago that spinning a well-known little wheel would be done from the comfort of your home as easily as clicking on ? Who dared suppose that placing bets could take a fraction of a second literally as long as launching of takes? What’s happening today is right before our eyes, but what the scene was earlier piques interest more than anything else. Let’s travel back to the history of land-based casinos and explore how things were different.

Significant Events in the History of US Gambling

Since the history of gaming activities dates back to 1500 and has come a long way, we have divided the eras into many broad topics. Let’s view them one by one.

The Onset of Betting Practices in the United States

As discussed already, gaming activities began in the late 1500s with the British American colonies. People enjoyed placing bets here, and the best part was that there were no restrictions before. The money, thus, raised from lotteries was often used to run educational institutes, though it was mostly frowned upon by the Puritan colonies.

The Time of Riverboat Casinos

As more and more people started participating in gambling activities, land-based gaming venues experienced rapid growth across the US. New Orleans was the breeding ground of wagering for some time until anti-gambling movements pushed them into riverboats sailing along the Mississippi River. Gradually, gaming moved into the territories of the West.

As card games got introduced and gamblers started placing bets on boat races, the riverboat casinos in the 1820s thrived. However, with the infiltration of professional card cheats, the law finally decided to intrude and punished five gamblers for their fraudulent activities in 1835. Eventually, the betting industry dried out when the Civil War broke out in 1861.

The Emergence of Saloons

New Orleans, which was once a hotbed of casino activity, was soon replaced by San Francisco. This was mostly due to the discovery of gold in California, which attracted aspiring prospectors looking for gold to visit and play at the land-based gambling hubs. As laws became stricter, chance-based activity declined in this city and evolved in the frontier towns like:

  • Dodge;
  • Kansas;
  • Deadwood;
  • Denver.

Local saloons emerged here, allowing people to drink, socialize and gamble. These were nothing less than brick-and-mortar gaming entertainment where people enjoyed various games, including:

  • Three-card Monte;
  • Poker;
  • Dice games;
  • Brag;
  • Faro;
  • Bowling,

The Delight of Casino Legalization

The US State of Nevada joined the betting and amusement league in 1906 when developers thronged the place. Of all that established, The Golden Gate was one worth mentioning. It was the country’s first hub that ran its operations for a long time. Nestled in Freemont Street, it was popular among gaming enthusiasts for its spacious rooms measuring 10’x10’ and luxurious setup. Even today, it stands tall, with operators spending $12 million on its renovations.

The Era of Criminals

As brick-and-mortar wagering hubs evolved in the United States, there was a period when betting went under the control of organized criminals. It happened in the early 20th century when playing the odds was illegal in most parts of the country.

As the Nevada gambling industry was legalized, mobsters engaged in bootlegging spirits at gaming hubs flew to Las Vegas. A few gangsters like Benjamin “Bugsy”, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, and others together developed the Las Vegas strip. In simple terms, whatever expansion occurred in the early years was mostly due to the infamous gangsters.

The Boom of the American Casino Industry

New Jersey followed suit and soon became the second state to legalize wager-based activities. Of the many cities that thrived, Atlantic City was one. In 1977, it was authorized to run gambling establishments, and soon after, hotels converted into casino resorts. The Chalfonte-Haddon Hotel is an exemplary case where it rebuilt itself into a Resorts Casino Hotel.

With the development of gambling dens, the city soon became a popular tourist destination. The key attractions now were gaming and beach vacations. It was not long before Atlantic City emerged as the country’s second-largest casino destination, the first being Las Vegas.

Land-Based Casinos Still Enjoy the Hype It Once Created

A look back at the eventful past of the United States reveals that gambling houses have come a long way. Initially, they were merely saloons and underground casinos run by gangsters. Today, the gambling landscape has evolved, and a significant number of land-based gaming destinations have mushroomed across the country.

Despite the infiltration of online casinos, physical gaming outlets continue to be the foundation of the gambling industry’s revenue. A look at the 2022 statistics discloses that the third quarter registered a revenue growth of $12.27 billion from land-based slots and table games. The figures are promising and imply that as long as gambling houses evolve and diversify their offerings, they will stay resilient in the face of challenges and never die out soon.

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