Pari-mutuel betting, also known as betting on horses, was first adopted in the United States in Oklahoma. Since then, states such as Hawaii, Montana, and Wyoming have passed similar laws to allow for the sport of kings and its accompanying festivities.
The first Pari-Mutuel Betting bill was introduced in the Oklahoma legislature in 1931 and was signed into law by then-governor William F. Bartlett. Since then, the practice of betting on horses has taken off in Oklahoma and throughout the U.S. In fact, in 2014 there were 15.8 million registered players worldwide, and 11.2 million of those were in the U.S.
Below we’ll discuss the history of Pari-Mutuel Betting in Oklahoma and why this exciting game is still popular 40 years later.
Beginnings In Oklahoma
In the late 1800s, the great plains were populated by Native Americans and cowboys. Due to overgrazing and disease, fewer and fewer cattle were being born, causing the price of beef to skyrocket.
It was at this point that people in the industry turned to poker. Played widely in the West for thousands of years, poker was a perfect fit for the Wild West. Cowboys would gather around card tables in saloons and casinos and play late into the night. This helped establish the foundation for modern Pari-Mutuel Betting in Oklahoma.
Early Days: Before The Creation Of The Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI)
For decades, the only federal agency specifically tasked with investigating organized crime was the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), founded in 1935. The BOI was part of the U.S. Department of the Interior and was headed by J. Edgar Hoover. One of the first things Hoover did after taking over the agency was name it the Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI).
Hoover considered poker a “vicious game” and said it led to “illicit activity” and the “formation of criminal gangs”. He even went so far as to ban it in some places. Despite the FBI’s opposition to poker, it didn’t stop people in Oklahoma from playing and enjoying the game. In fact, in the decades that followed, people in the state would organize card rooms in private homes and in hotels for players who wanted to keep their games private.
Rise Of The Gaming Commissions: A New Game In Town
In the 1960s, with the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the counterculture, there was a need for social change and a desire to improve living conditions in America. One of the main issues that arose was how to deal with gambling. The social problems caused by traditional gambling, like those caused by alcohol, were well-documented and gaining attention. The harm that can stem from addiction was also a major concern. These factors helped fuel the rise of the gaming commissions in America.
In 1964, Nevada was the first state to pass a gaming law and create a regulatory agency that would oversee all gaming activities, including casinos and racetracks. Soon after, other states started following suit.
The following year, New Mexico passed its own gaming law, which was soon followed by Arizona, California, and Missouri. The impact of these new regulations was immeasurable. Before the passage of these laws, illegal gambling was prevalent in the U.S. However, with the creation of state-licensed gambling venues, the illegal game was effectively shut down. Today, as you might guess, there are more than 50,000 legal casinos in America, and most states have a gaming commission to regulate and tax this industry.
The same can’t be said for horseracing, which is why most states don’t have a regulatory body overseeing pari-mutuel betting and most commonly find themselves in the position of not having a law on the books governing the practice.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With the rise of the Internet and online poker, there has been a large shift in the way people play poker and engage with the game. And even if you’re not a frequent online poker player, you’re likely familiar with the array of games and tools offered online. These platforms make it easy to play wherever and whenever you want. In addition, many of these sites offer social components that make it easier for everyone to play together regardless of location.
Because of the growing presence of technology in our lives, the way we play and consume games will undoubtedly evolve, just as our gaming habits have already changed. While there will always be a place for the tried and true games like poker and blackjack, the next big thing will surely be covered by a gaming commission or attorney general because, well, you know what they say about living in a frontier town.