The History of Sports Betting: All You Need To Know

history of sports betting

As long as sports have been around, so has sports betting. Sports betting has the incredible power of taking sports, one of society’s favourite pastimes and combining it with gambling, which adds a personal stake in the outcome. Yes, when your favourite team wins or loses, you are flooded with emotion and you can experience the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. However, when you actually bet money on a sports event, you don’t just stand to gain or lose emotionally, you can also gain or lose large chunks of money. As sports events get bigger and bigger, the money associated with those events also gets larger and larger. The amount of money involved with sports betting has also increased simultaneously. Sports betting doesn’t just involve betting on the winner/loser of the game. You can also bet on the points spread, or the margin of victory/defeat in a game. 

The History of Sports Betting

What are the origins of sports betting?

The first record of sports betting goes as far back as 2,000 years ago. The Greeks’ love of sports led them to introduce the Olympics to the world. The Olympics also feature the earliest records of betting on athletic competitions.

From the Greeks, sports betting spread to ancient Rome where it went on to be widely accepted and eventually legalized. Roman spectators bet furiously on the outcomes of gladiatorial combat. Even when this ancient sporting event eventually came to a stop, gambling survived and continued to spread to other kingdoms.

During medieval times, some religious leaders tried to make laws forbidding it. This forced sports betting into the underground, where it continued to exist and even grow as new sporting events were introduced to the world.

Later in history, gambling became very fashionable in England. The majority of it was centred around horse racing. This soon spread across the Atlantic and reached the American shores, and became the favourite pastime of many people. 

Overall, gambling has continued to grow worldwide and is extremely popular today, especially throughout Europe which has become the centre of sports betting in the world (probably buoyed by the immensely popular and lucrative football leagues in England, Spain, Italy and France).

An expansion in the number of sports events that people can wager on has also helped improve the popularity of sports betting. Some of the sports you see today were not in existence more than a few centuries ago. Today, if you are looking for a sport to bet your money on, the world is your oyster. You can bet on Basketball, American Football, Soccer, Ice Hockey, Horse races, Dog Races and everything else in between. 

Currently, sports betting is not just a fun activity, it is also a multi-billion dollar business generating huge profits for sportsbooks and casinos worldwide.

The History of Sports Betting: Recent Developments

In the fifties, Las Vegas legalized sports betting in their land based casinos making it appear legitimate in the eyes of many. The problem was that you had to walk into a casino to place your wager. If you weren’t close to Las Vegas you were out of luck if you wanted to place a bet.

Today, the Las Vegas sports books handle billions of dollars in business per annum. However, that is only a tiny percentage of the entire volume of sports betting across the US. A majority of the betting volume is handled illegally by local bookies and offshore bookmakers.

For years the bulk of sports bets inside America were placed with the help of local bookies. Bookies operate illegally, but are ignored by law enforcement for the most part.

In just about any jurisdiction across the world, you’ll find a web book maker willing to place your bet. Even though such activities have been deemed illegal by many countries, this hasn’t had any impact on the bookies and they continue to take bets regularly. They are located in jurisdictions that make it hard, or maybe impossible, to prosecute them. So, most bookies have successfully continued to offer their services to people all over the world.

The same things that make these online sports books hard to manage also can make them risky to put bets with. You can find many online sports books that have solid track records and offer a secure betting experience, but you’ll also find many who have taken advantage of sports bettors.

The History of Sports Betting: Online Sports Betting

No other single factor has increased the growth of sports betting more than the advent of the internet. Before the web, sports betting, though popular, was nowhere near as widespread as it is in today’s world. With the internet, people could place bets anytime from anywhere, on any device. As a result, sports betting has exploded ever since and has continued to grow at an exponential pace across the globe. Even high school and college games have bets placed on them.

The need to visit a bookmaker to place your bets has been alleviated with the advent of online sports betting. You don’t even need to attend the sports event in order to place bets on it. Sports fans have the power to place bets as they watch the sporting event from their living room. You don’t even need a computer to place your bets, you can also place bets using your mobile phones. 

With online betting, you can also see the betting lines change and this means that you can find the best betting opportunities as the event unfolds, especially when you are betting on live sporting events.

It’s now possible to bet on practically any event in the world. Betting doesn’t just stop with sports. You can also bet on political events like presidential elections, tv shows (betting on who might win a reality show), movies (how much will a movie earn on the box office), eSports etc.

The History of Sports Betting: The Future of Sports Betting

As long as sports will be played, people will continue to watch and enjoy them. If anything, the popularity of sports has grown with time. With the advent of social media, people are able to enjoy sports and connect with sports stars even more.

The two hottest sports to put bets on today are both called football. The worldwide game of football, called soccer in some areas (mostly in the United States of America), offers thousands of games per annum where fans can place bets. American football, including both the NFL and college, additionally creates billions of dollars of betting action per annum.

Other popular sports to which people place bets on, are basketball, baseball, cricket and hockey. If we haven’t mentioned your favourite sports so far, don’t worry, you will most probably be able to place bets on it. Bets are commonly placed on tennis, badminton, auto racing, Olympic sports, golf and ostrich races as well.

The internet and smartphones continue to fuel the expansion of sports betting. You used to need to make bets face to face with a person at a betting window. You can still do this, call or text your local bookie, walk into a sports book or log into a web sports book to put bets. Online sports betting sites are now even offering in-progress (i.e. live betting) betting that allows gamblers to bet in real time from tip off to the final whistle.

Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) are by far the shining example of the future of sports betting which is growing by leaps and bounds every day. Sites like FanDuel and DraftKings allow customers to bet on their teams and collect their winnings on the same day. As of today, many jurisdictions of the United States of America have legalized DFS. As a result of that, many people have speculated that once sports betting is completely legalized, DFS will lead the charge for making it mainstream.

Recently there has been a lot of talk in the media about the legalization of sports betting. Many States are trying to pass laws making it legal for them to allow sports betting and collect much needed tax revenues. Some of the most powerful and prominent proponents of that are NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

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