• Californians and Gambling

    The term 'California gambling' first became clear in early San Francisco and the other 'fast cities and towns' of the Gold Rush.

    In gaming halls, more wide-open and more commercial than ever before.

    People played all day and all night at games that had been organized and refined into a high-volume industry, a business where the dealer relied more and more for profits on percentages and odds rather than cheating and deceit.

    And once players understood that a gambler with the percentages on his side could not really be beaten, they looked at betting a little differently.

    With the odds against them, it came to matter less whether players won or lost, so long as they got a chance to participate.

    Again, gaming practices mirrored the frontier society in which they emerged.

    Bettors resembled those veteran miners who kept rushing off to the latest unverified strike in the Far West, not because it seemed a sure thing, but because it meant excitement.

    To restless miners, and to thrill-seeking bettors, 'the fun would be worth a fortune almost.'

    California at first lived whole heartedly with the new fashions of gaming, but as Gold Rush society settled down it grew less tolerant of the prevailing pastime.

    Guided by eastern standards of respectability, the state struggled to reduce its notorious wagering.

    Citizens turned first against the professional gambler, using lynching and legislation, and soon extended reforms by outlawing all public, commercial gaming.

    San Franciscans gambled respectably by investing recklessly in commodities, city lots, and mining stocks, but their excitements eventually played out along with the gold and silver ore.

    Southern Californians, on the other hand, speculated on a never-ending series of booms in fruit, climate, oil, movies, autos, aerospace, and above all else, real estate.

    The risk-taking atmosphere of Los Angeles sustained through the twentieth century the heritage of gambling as a way of life that Argonauts had first cultivated on the mid-nineteenth century frontier.

    That mentality was in large part responsible for the rise of Las Vegas after 1940, when casinos similar to Gold Rush gambling saloons grew increasingly popular among Southern Californians.

    The success of California gambling in southern Nevada signified that since 1848, the Golden State and the Far West have been the primary source of American gambling culture, for together they have comprised a final and enduring frontier.

    The emergence of California as a fountain of betting styles illustrated the state's special relationship to the rest of the nation.

    California represented the culmination of the westering process and epitomized frontier social development. Familiar patterns of western economic adventure and cultural striving appeared once again in the Golden State, but developed more quickly, more lastingly, and more thoroughly than on other American frontiers.

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