Nevada is noteworthy. It was the first state in the United States to legalize gambling. It is the only state with an 85-plus year history of continuous legalized gambling. And for 40 years during the 20th century, starting in 1931, it was the only state with legalized gambling. That solo run ended in 1976, when New Jersey residents approved gaming in Atlantic City and since, over the decades, more and more states permitted gambling. However, The Silver State always has been and remains the country’s gambling mecca.
Nevada’s gambling history actually began long before 1931. In fact, it extends back to before the territory joined the Union in 1864. The industry continued even during the periods when the activity was banned; operators simply took it underground.
Here’s a timeline of major events in the gambling industry’s evolution in The Silver State. Click on the date and title to read more!
1859: Gold Hill Mining District outlaws gambling
In June, a few hundred miners create this mining district and outlaw organized gambling along with murder, assault, robbery and theft. The punishment for anyone who acts as a banker for any game of chance is banishment from the district. This is the first recorded attempt in the Territory of Nevada to control gambling, which had thrived at least for the previous 2,300 years.
1861: Gaming abolished
The initial Nevada Territorial Legislature bans the dealing, running, opening, conducting or playing of any game of faro, monte, roulette, lansquenet, rouge-et-noir or any banking game played with cards, dice or any other device for anything of value.
Nevada becomes the 36th state on October 31, 1864.
1865: Anti-gaming law reiterated
In the first legislative session after Nevada joins the Union in 1864, lawmakers replace the territorial law with a state statute.
1869: Gaming partially legalized
Nevada legalizes only the games outlawed in 1861 and mandates operators be licensed.
1873: Lotteries prohibited
Lawmakers ban lotteries defined as any scheme for the disposal or distribution of property, by chance, among paying players.
1875: Additional games legalized
The legislature approves keno, fantan, 21, Diana, and red-white-and-blue.
1885: Legal/illegal games changed
An amendment allows stud-horse poker, or percentage, with a license and illegalized roulette.
1901: Slots deemed illegal
The state bans the playing or offering of nickel-in-the-slot machines or similar devices.
1903: Bookmaking allowed with license
A new act makes it legal to engage in, conduct or carry on any bookmaking on horse races, prize fights or any games conducted outside of the state with a gambling license.
1905: Slots considered legal
The state repeals the anti-slots law, thereby legalizing them with required licensure.
1909: Gambling abolished
The anti-gambling act prohibits all gambling mentioned in prior acts and amendments along with tan, fantan, seven-and-a-half, hokey pokey, craps, klondike, whist, bridge whist, 500, solo and frog. It also bans any gambling game in which the operator receives compensation or reward or a share of the money or property played for making the game available. It prohibits offering or playing slot machines along with all kinds of bookmaking. It disallows anyone from keeping, exhibiting or owning any casino equipment, such as games, slot machines, cards, tables, checks, wheels and other devices. The law goes into effect October 1, 1910.
1915: Some gambling excepted
The legislature legalizes poker; stud-horse poker; 500; solo; whist; parimutuel betting on horse races; slot machines for the sales of cigars and drinks; social games only played for drinks and cigars served individually or prizes not exceeding two dollars in value.
1919: Nevada Prohibition
The state legally goes dry as of January 1.
1920: U.S. Prohibition
The 18th Amendment is enacted.
1930s: Racehorse Keno debuts
This version of keno uses horse names instead of numbers to comply with Nevada laws.
1931: Wide-open gambling legalized
Governor Fred B. Balzar signs a liberal gaming law that remains in effect today, which legalizes all forms of gambling except lotteries and which requires licensing of operators. Fees were $25 per month per table game and $10 per month per slot. The law lists the approved games as faro, monte, roulette, keno, fantan, 21, blackjack, seven-and-a-half, big injun, klondike, craps, stud poker, draw poker, or any banking or percentage game played with cards, dice or any mechanical device or machine; slot machines; and any game in which the operator receives compensation or reward. Also, the law removes the rules surrounding social games. The county and city control licensing and regulation.
1933: Prohibition ends
The 18th Amendment is repealed, and Prohibition ends for Nevada and the U.S.
1945: Gambling tax initiated
Lawmakers created a state casino tax as a vehicle for collecting a gambling tax, initially 1% of gross casino revenues exceeding $3,000.
1945: Industry regulation begins
The state’s tax commission assumes gambling licensing and regulation duties.
1947: Gambling tax rate increased
The rate on gross revenues is increased to 2%. A table games tax is started.
1949: Vetting permitted
The tax commission is granted the power to adopt guidelines for screening gambling license applicants, to vet them and, when applicable, to deny permits.
1949: Fingerprinting required
Changes to the Gaming Act allow the tax commission to require casino workers be fingerprinted.
1950: Kefauver Committee investigates
Senator Estes Kefauver (Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce) holds a hearing in Las Vegas on November 15.
1951: Keno loses horses
Nevada laws change, and keno becomes a game with numbers in the place of horses’ names.
1955: Gaming Control Act passes
For one, it changes the gross gaming revenue tax to a graduated rate up to 5.5%.
1955: Nevada Gaming Control Board debuts
The Nevada Legislature creates the Nevada Gaming Control Board as the investigation arm for the Nevada Tax Commission, the state’s gambling regulating agency at the time. The board is made up of three full-time members appointed by the governor for four-year terms, with one member acting as Chairman.
1955: Cheating caveat
Gambling law is amended to prohibit cheating at gambling, by using marked cards, loaded dice and other devices, and to forbid use of anything other than U.S.-minted coins in slot machines.
1957: Chemin de fer allowed
Nevada’s gaming regulators approve chemin de fer, the first version of baccarat in Nevada.
1958: Nevada interests only required
A new regulation passes that bars all state gambling licensees from engaging in casino operations in any other state or nation.
1959: Faro dies
Faro no longer is offered by any Nevada casino.
1959: Punto Banco baccarat debuts
This baccarat version appears in Las Vegas and eventually phases out chemin de fer.
1959: Nevada Gaming Commission starts
The Gaming Control Act allows for the creation of the Nevada Gaming Commission, which is comprised of five members appointed by the governor to four-year terms, with one member acting as chairman. It takes over the gambling-related duties handled by the tax commission.
1960s: Slots shift to electromechanical
The first electromechanical slot machine, Money Honey by Bally Technologies, comes out.
1960s: Slot options expanded
Slots begin offering multiple paylines and the ability to bet several coins on one line. Side bets via jackpots become available.
1960: "Black Book" release
Nevada’s gaming regulators compile and distribute a notebook containing unsavory characters who are to be banned from the state’s casinos. (Today, it’s called the List of Excluded Persons.)
1965: Casino entertainment taxed
A 10% tax rate is imposed.
1967: Another tax comes about
The Legislature imposes a license fee on slot machines and a different fee on table games.
1967: Corporate Gaming Act passes
This allows allowing publicly traded corporations to own casinos without subjecting each of their numerous shareholders to expensive investigations to obtain a gambling license.
1967: Pai gow introduced
The Nevada Gaming Commission allows the state’s casinos to offer pai gow.
1970s: Slots incorporate monitors
The first video slot machines appear on casino floors.
1970: Red Line eliminated
The City of Reno officially eliminates the Red Line, a rectangular region of downtown Reno in which casinos with unlimited gambling could exist.
1977: In-state only restriction lifted
Foreign gaming regulations allows Nevada gambling licensees to have a stake in casino enterprises in other states and countries, provided the other locale had an effective governmental regulatory system in place.
1980s: Slots surpass table games
Revenue from slot machines in Nevada exceeds that of table games for first time ever.
1980: State assumes federal tax
The $250 per machine annual U.S. slot tax is repealed, and Nevada requires that money be paid to the state instead as the slot machine excise tax.
1981: State boosts taxes
The state increased the gross gaming revenue tax to 5.75% on revenue over $400,000 per quarter and raised slot machine license fees to $20 per machine per quarter.
1986: Progressive slots come out
IGT’s Megabucks debuts, marking the start of popular Progressives.
1987: Tax rates go up
The gross gaming revenue tax is increased to 6% on revenue over $400,000 per quarter, and the tax on restricted slot licenses was bumped up.
1992: Card shuffling goes automatic
The first card shuffling machine hits the market, drastically speeding up table game play.
1993: Taxes creep up
By this year, the top rate of gross gaming revenue tax is 6.25%.
1996: Iconic slot machine introduced
IGT’s Wheel of Fortune debuts.
2000s: Theme slots launched
A proliferation of themed slot machines begins.
2000s: TITO technology emerges
Ticket-in, ticket-out (TITO), replaces coins/cash used in slots with paper tickets that patrons redeem at a kiosk for money.
2000s: Table games go electronic
Game makers start introducing electronic table games, full or partial.
2003: Taxes increased
The state raises the restricted slot machine tax to 33%. It increases each level of gross gaming revenue taxes is increased by 0.5%, the top maxing out at 6.75%.
2004: Tax altered
The casino entertainment tax started in 1965 is replaced by a live entertainment tax that applies to gaming and non-gaming facilities.
2006: Central control permitted
The Nevada Gaming Commission allows casinos to control individual slots — change their theme, payout percentages or denominations — from a central computer.
2010s: Slots enter new dimension
Some 3D slot machines debut.
2013: Online gambling starts
Nevada legalizes online gaming; poker is allowed.
2014: Cashless games
The Nevada Gaming Commission allows the use of bank-issued prepaid cards in casinos.
2015: Video/arcade game-like slots allowed
Governor Brian Sandoval signs a bill permitting slot machines with skill-based, video/arcade game-type elements. Game makers start adding more interactive features.