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How NFL Betting Has Changed Over the Last 160 Years

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In the past, it was difficult to legally place bets on sports events, no matter how passionate the fans were. Throughout time, certain changes have fallen into place to create the hobby of sports betting, which is a way to appreciate the NFL and other leagues. We will be taking a look at the history of NFL betting, and how it has changed over the past 160 years and how we place bets in current times. 

History of Sports Betting

During the 1860s, right after the end of the Civil War, horse racing became the sport of choice to bet on. People made horse racing into a social event, with hundreds of people gathering around tracks all over America. Fans of the sport would place their bets with bookies, while spectators would look on. 

As time went on, people moved on from only placing bets on horses to baseball and college football games. In the early 1900s, many casinos closed, and gambling largely became illegal throughout the country. 

The Black Sox Scandal

In 1919, sports betting gained a negative reputation. The cause of this was primarily due to the Black Sox Scandal. Of the Chicago White Sox team, eight members threw the 1919 World Series. They allowed the Cincinnati Reds to take the win and took a payout in exchange. 

During the games, the players realized that they would not be receiving their payout as promised. They tried to win the remaining games as retribution, but the safety of their friends and family members became threatened. 

The eight players were no longer allowed to play professional baseball ever again, and sports betting earned a bad reputation. 

Football Betting

Long before NFL betting apps, people would place their bets in person. In 1931, Nevada became the first state to legalize physical casinos once again. In the 1950s, sports betting became legal in Nevada. Unfortunately, the casinos had to place a 10% tax on sports betting. This made it difficult for them to compete with illegal bookmakers who were also operating. 

In the 1960s, the Gambling Act passed. This act enabled fans to place bets on football matches completely legally. Many betting shops opened in the following years to take advantage of this increased amount of activity. The betting shops had to maintain a low profile, even though they were legal. When people came in to place their bets, they were made to feel suspicious due to the shop’s blacked-out windows and lack of advertisement.  

All this changed in the 1980s when betting shops were able to brighten up their facilities. These shops were even featured on television commercials, allowing new fans of the sport to partake.  

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

In 1992, the PASPA passed. This act resulted in the majority of states banning all sports betting except for dog and horse racing. After this act, NFL fans were only able to place their bets through unauthorized bookmakers once more. 

Thankfully, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the PASPA in 2018, clearing the way for sports betting in the country.


In the past, the NFL was well-known for opposing sports betting. The organization had worries about the potential for throwing the match when wagers became involved. In 2012, the organization fought against New Jersey when they were attempting to legalize sports betting. 

In current times, the NFL is on board with the idea of sports betting. In 2020, the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell said: “We think that sports gambling in many ways creates a lot more engagement for our fans. It gives them another opportunity to engage with the game.” NFL players reached an agreement with gambling operators that attach to NFL stadiums. The players and operators are to share the revenue of bets, as betting is now legal in nearly every state. 

Modern Betting

Since the late 1990s, online gambling has been steadily rising in popularity in the states with legal sports betting. As more states legalized the activity, more websites opened to cater to sports fans. Players now can bet on nearly every aspect of a football game, including penalties, spread, and the moneyline.    

Online websites also have bonus features to appeal to new players. Many websites offer sign-up bonuses to help the player fund additional bets. These vary in value, but most tend to be at least $200 as a matched deposit. Other websites may provide cash bonuses or free spins as an incentive. 

Mobile apps are also very large in the field of sports betting. Fans enjoy being able to pick up their smart device to check the score of a game or place a bet on their favorite team. Since many people have their devices with them at all times, they are always able to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. 

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