Long Before Las Vegas – History of Gambling in the US

It’s hard not to think of the glittering lights and non-stop pace of the Las Vegas strip when you think of gambling. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week there are people crowded around the blackjack and roulette tables hoping to hit it big. Gambling has long been a topic that leads to heated debates for a long time. However, gambling in the United States has a history that dates us back a long time before Las Vegas came around.

Gambling can be dated back to the earliest days of settlers in the 17th century. Attitudes about gambling varied by settlements as each one was founded by different members of the British colonies. The Puritans outlawed pretty much any form of gambling including dice, cards and even private tables. There was a lot of hostility towards the thought of someone who made gambling their profession. The English on the other hand, saw gambling as a pleasant and harmless distraction from everyday life and it was a popular past time. Eventually, people came to blame the problems of the new colonies on gambling and acceptance of it waned.

Once the early 19th century rolled around, gambling was still prevalent throughout the United States but it had begun to take on new forms. Lotteries were a very popular way to raise revenue for the states. The proceeds from lottery profits were used to build public works building such as schools and churches. Another form of gambling that popped up in the 19th century was horse racing. It was not nearly as large nor as organized as horse racing today but this is the first time we see gambling taking on new forms.

As the settlers of the United States moved west, so did gambling. It began to take on a more organized form in the sense of casinos. The purpose of these establishments however was not so much to raise revenue for the community but to take advantage of those making the long trek west. During this time in the 1800s, criticism of gambling on moral grounds was increasing. Scandals throughout lottery institutions and more permanent gambling casinos that were taking advantage of people were hit hard by social reform and eventually most forms of gambling throughout the country was prohibited.

When the gold rush hit California in the mid 1800s, people were itching to spend their new found wealth and gambling found its new mecca. Gambling spread through the state like wild fire and both private and public parties were relying on the revenue. Eventually, the popular mind set against gambling made its way west to California and laws were set in place to limit gambling. By the end of the 19th century, most forms of gambling were illegal but this of course did not stop people – it simply drove them out of sight of the authorities.

Limits on gambling began to subside into the 20th century and by the time the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the public attitude towards gambling eased up significantly. All of a sudden gambling was not seen as a crime but as a way to help stimulate the economy. Forms of gambling such as bingo and horse racing saw a huge comeback during this time period. It was also during the 1930′s that gambling as an industry was formed in the state of Nevada – by organized crime professionals. There is still a fine line to walk between the crime world and the legal political world when it comes to gambling and forms of gambling other than government regulated lotteries are illegal in most states. There will surely be another shift in how gambling is viewed in this country and there will probably never be an agreement on the moral implications of such a practice but, it is sure that gambling will continue to evolve.

Addiction – When Gambling Becomes a Problem

While most people enjoy casino gambling, sports betting, lottery and bingo playing for the fun and excitement it provides, others may experience gambling as an addictive and distractive habit. Statistics show that while 85 percent of the adult population in the US enjoys some type of gambling every year, between 2 and 3 percent of will develop a gambling problem and 1 percent of them are diagnosed as pathological gamblers.

Where can you draw the line between harmless gambling to problem gambling? How can you tell if you or your friend are compulsive gamblers? Here you can find answers to these questions and other questions regarding problem gambling and gambling addiction.

What is the Meaning of Problem Gambling?

Problem gambling or compulsive gambling is defined as an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the destructive effect of gambling on the gamblers life and despite feelings of guilt and remorse. Problem gambling tends to have a negative effect on the gamblers financial state, relationships and daily life. Severe cases of problem gambling can be defined as pathological gambling.

Am I a Compulsive Gambler?

1) Do you gamble until your last penny runs out?

2) Do you gamble to win back your former losses or debts?

3) Did you ever had to borrow money to continue gamble?

4) Did your gambling habit ever made you lie to your friends or family?

5) Did you ever skip work or other obligation to gamble?

6) Do you tend to gamble to forget about your personal problems or to celebrate happy occasions?

7) Does gambling have a negative affect on your daily life or relationships?

If you have answered yes on at least one of the questions listed above, then you have a problem.

Can Anyone Become a Compulsive Gambler?

Theoretically, yes. Any gambler can develop gambling problem regardless to the type of gambling he is occupied with, the amount of money and time he is spending on gambling. Researches show that slot machines that can be found in bars and convenient stores are the most addictive type of gambling activity, while lottery draws and bingo games are located on the other end of the scale. Gambling addiction is an emotional problem; its symptoms, causes and treatments are similar to any other form of addiction.

How Can I treat Gambling Addiction?

1) Group Therapy:

Gamblers Anonymous offers a 12 step self help program similar to the one offered to alcohol addicts in Alcoholics Anonymous. Group therapy also offers gambling addicts advice and support from professional counselors and other gambling addicts in different phases of their recovery process. Gambler Anonymous centers are available in more than 1,200 locations statewide.

2) Individual Therapy:

Cognitive or behavior therapy can help gambling addicts to identify their unaware thinking and acting patterns, which led them to gamble compulsively, and to replace them with controllable and healthier ways of thinking.

3) Psychiatric Medication:

It has recently been proven that antidepressant medications from the family of SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be affective in treatment of gambling addicts.

Nostalgia in Games

Nostalgia. The word brings to mind a joyous familiarity felt when engaging in something in the present that we really enjoyed doing in the past. Gaming is no different. Everyone has games that bring back memories from, what we think of now as, better times. Hindsight is a like the snob that points out what you could have done, hindsight tells us our childhood may not have been as bad as we thought. As adults we know how the world works. When we were growing up, we never really had a grip on the world. Hindsight tells us that those times were better, safer, less complicated. Games that bring on nostalgia puts us in the mindset of a kid again. It makes us feel safe, secure, and protected. Humans have a natural tendency to want safety and protection. Especially the adults, because as adults we know just how quickly the world can go from OK one day, to horrible the next. As gamers we seek safety and security in games.

I started gaming when I was very young as most gamers my age did. I grew up playing Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 with my mom and sister. Super Mario, Kirby, and Mario Cart were a few of the titles that we played. Zelda was perhaps the biggest game we played. My mom has problems with fast-moving games like Call of Duty and other highly graphic games. So we played Super Nintendo and what a time it was! Zelda on the Super Nintendo we beat many times. I say “we” but it was my mom playing not me or my sister. Even thinking about it while writing this I’m getting nostalgia. We kept getting close to the end and then the game wiping our save out so we started over like three times. It was good times. That was when I was around six or seven or eight. Long time ago. Nostalgia gives us hope for the future. It tells us that if good times happened in the past then more good times will happen in the future.

Later I started gaming on my own. It is hard to think about what game came next in chronological order but they all had a theme: single-player strategy. A broad gaming description that can fit a lot of games in it. Games like Pharaoh and Cleopatra, Age of Empires II, and of course Sid Meier’s Civilization III. I was not allowed to play shooters as they had bad language in them and so was restricted to single player games. My parents were very protective and games were not as prevalent twenty years ago as they are now. Pharaoh is a city builder placing you in ancient Egypt. The goal of the game was the build great cities using the resources at your disposal and it was quite a challenge for an eleven year old. Age of Empires II is a real-time strategy game that is completely different from pharaoh. You have to balance resource collection and troop production to take down either AI or other players. Civ III was probably my favorite game growing up. To this day, I still play pharaoh and age of empires II.

Think about what nostalgia is again for just a second. It is a feeling coming from a memory. A memory of “better times” that may or may not be accurate. Games we played a long time ago, that brings back those memories, might not continue to be fun. Civ III I played for hundreds of hours when I was younger is not as fun now that I am older so I do not play it as much now. Sometimes nostalgia lies.

In conclusion, nostalgia in games is a good thing. It allows us to relive parts of our childhood that we otherwise would not have a reason to bring back up from the depths of our minds. Many people say that video games lead to anti-social behavior, violence, and a drop in school grades. Video games teach us how the world is. When you are playing multiplayer of any game you will usually find people who are just toxic. It prepares for dealing with the worst society has to throw at us. Human beings are prone to violence. The first murder happened when Cain killed Abel back in Genesis. I am pretty sure at they did not have video games back then. So this point is always going to be moot. The only point that actually makes sense is the drop in school grades. It takes a great deal of discipline to do school work over video games. It builds character this discipline. So next time you feel nostalgia coming on, take some time to stop and smell the memories. Bask in the thoughts of better times and the hope that good times are still ahead, no matter what the world tells you in the present. This is what video game nostalgia teaches us.