Newswise — Although Hawaii and Utah have long and rich gambling histories, scholars have ignored those stories as they have focused on the growth of gambling in the rest of the United States. A just-published paper in the Gaming Law Review and Economics, however, explores the states’ gambling history and points out that while those states may not currently have any form of legalized gambling, that wasn't always the case. Author Robert M. Jarvis, professor of law at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. finds that Hawaii’s and Utah’s gambling experience can go toe-to-toe with any jurisdiction.

“The gambling experience in both states is just as colorful as anything you can find in Atlantic City or Las Vegas,” Jarvis says. “It’s amazing that scholars have been so quick to write them off when it comes to gambling.”

“Gambling in Hawaii goes back to before Hawaii was a kingdom, and the amount of gambling-related legislation and litigation is just staggering."

“In Utah, the history of gaming dates back to the arrival of the Mormon settlers in the 1840s,” he says. “One of the first laws passed by the short-lived State of Deseret was a law prohibiting gambling. Gambling was an underground fixture in Utah during its territorial days, and that's still true today, although in the 1920s Utah briefly allowed betting on horse racing." Jarvis became interested in gambling in Hawaii and Utah after reading article after article that said, without explaining why, that they were the only two U.S. states without any form of legalized gambling.

"It was tough tracking down the details, especially when it came to the first laws outlawing gambling. Copies aren't readily available, and so very few people know about them," Jarvis explains. "But now that the article is done, I'm hoping that the states will get proper due from other scholars." As for the future, Jarvis agrees that either state is unlikely to change its anti-gambling stance any time soon.

"A lot of other states are embracing gambling as a way to plug the holes in their budgets, but I don't see gambling in their future. The history of each state just really argues against it," Jarvis says.

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Gaming Law Review and Economics