From Prohibition to Regulation: The Evolution of Legal Bookies in Nevada

Published 10:10 am Thursday, August 10, 2023

From moonshine-filled speakeasies to sleek sports betting lounges, the transformation of Nevada’s bookmaking industry is nothing short of extraordinary. Let’s take a quick journey through time as we delve into the captivating story of how prohibition-era illegal bookies evolved into today’s regulated and thriving gambling mecca.

How the Prohibition Affected the Bookie Industry

So if you ever wondered how to be a bookie, maybe you should take a look at how it all started! From 1920 to 1933, the buying and selling of alcoholic beverages was prohibited in the United States. This had a major impact on the bookie industry, as many people turned to illegal gambling to get their fix. This created a thriving underground market for bookies, who were able to make a lot of money off of desperate gamblers.

However, prohibition was eventually repealed, and bookies were forced to go back above ground. This change led to a more regulated and organized bookie industry, as bookies now had to operate within the law. While this may have put some restraints on their business, it also made it more stable and less risky.

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Today, legal bookies in Nevada are thriving. They have adapted to the changing landscape of gambling and continue to provide a valuable service to those who enjoy placing bets on sporting events.

Examining the Legal Situation of Bookies in Different US States

Only in Las Vegas and Atlantic City is bookmaking legal in the United States. Some states expressly prohibit bookmaking, while others do not mention it at all. Here’s a quick rundown of the legal status of bookmakers in several US states:

In Alabama, bookmaking is a felony punishable by up to ten years in jail.
Bookmaking is not officially outlawed by law in Alaska, but it is considered as a sort of gambling and hence subject to the rules of general gaming legislation.
In Arkansas, bookmaking is a crime punishable by up to ten years in jail.
In California, bookmaking is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Off-track betting on horse races is legal in California.
In Colorado, bookmaking is a crime punishable by up to 6 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $500,000. Off-track betting on horse races is legal in Colorado. Sports betting is legal in Colorado at certain casinos.

The Evolution of Nevada’s Bookie Laws

Since its legalization in 1931, Nevada has made several adjustments to its bookmaking regulations.

In the beginning, Nevada simply allowed race and sports books. In 1949, the state legislature legalized sports betting alongside casino games.

The state legalized Off-Track-Betting (OTB) parlors in 1974 after amending its bookmaking legislation. Bets on horse races at tracks across the country can be placed at off-track betting (OTB) parlors.

The most recent modification to Nevada’s bookmaking rules occurred in 2001, when the state permitted internet gambling. This allowed for the development of online sportsbooks that welcome wagers on athletic events from all around the world.

Nevada’s stance on gambling has softened over time. This practice, which was once restricted to a few locations, is now commonplace throughout the state.


Despite its reputation for gambling, it took a long period of prohibition and regulation until bookmaking was legalized. Since then, legal bookies have become a key part of the Nevada economy and entertainment industry, with more states now looking to follow suit. This is a testament to just how far attitudes towards betting have come since the first bookies set up shop many years ago in Las Vegas.