A history of sports betting

Sports | 17 Oct 2018 | By Sun International


The odds that sports betting predates historical records should be reasonably short and would certainly be worth a punt were it possible to determine. Sports betting has conceivably been in existence for as long as there have contests with winners and losers. Sports betting as a popular social activity can be attributed to ancient Greece when athletic competitions were held across various cities with spectators wagering on the outcome of various sports as well as fights.

The early Romans soon adopted the Greeks’ penchant for betting and it soon spread across various territories as the Roman legion spread far and wide. The Romans took sports betting a step further by giving it legal status and allowing bets to be placed on the gladiator games.

During the Middle Ages several nations’ leaders took exception to betting and tried to outlaw all forms of gambling, despite these attempts the betting industry persisted and actually flourished underground with bets ironically being placed on military events intended to hone the skills used to police the scourge of betting in the first place.

As a Professor of Gaming Studies once exclaimed, “When nature or society did not present opportunities for a bet, Englishmen invented them.” This especially rang true during the Renaissance when carnivals, fairs and festivals offered patrons the opportunity of betting on shin kicking, which as the name implies required participants to kick one another’s shins up until one gave in.

Another innovation introduced by the British during the 18th and 19th centuries was known as pedestrianism which was fervently bet on by the public. It involved placing bets on how long it would take to walk, run or travel a certain distance.  This gave rise to larger bets and greater distances being travelled eventually leading to fanciful trips on which the novel, Around the World in 80 Days was based.

Punters focused their attention to the newly formed professional team sports during the 19th century, with the establishment of the Football Association in 1863, the Rugby Football Union in 1871 and Test Cricket in 1877.

Around this time the interest in individual sports reached new heights with the first Open Championship played in 1860 leading to the tradition of the British Open. On top of that the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club situated in Wimbledon held its first tennis championship in 1877 which led to the widespread popularity of tennis as well as tennis betting.

Betting on organised sport during the 20th century experienced a dramatic surge, which could be attributed to the advent of governing bodies for professional boxing, cycling, darts and ice hockey enforcing stringent rules and regulations which propelled professionalism into the mainstream resulting in more competitive sporting practices.

This coupled along with the rise of American sports including baseball and basketball initiated a betting frenzy that couldn’t be abated.

Once online sportsbooks were introduced, the amount of people betting on sport dramatically increased due to the incredible ease with which bets could be placed. Punters no longer had to go down to physical sportsbook but could bet from the comfort of their homes or while they were on the go with mobile betting facilities.

Soccer betting experienced exponential growth with a host of online sportsbooks now regularly sponsoring a number of high-profile British soccer sides. Cricket betting as well as rugby betting also enjoy a phenomenal amount of interest with betting on local and international matches only a click away.

Live in-play or in-running betting has also become quite popular as it allows the punter to place bets while a particular  match is being played live. This offers the punter a unique insight into a player or team’s performance, their strengths as well as their weaknesses and gives the punter the opportunity of taking advantage of an unforeseen circumstance.

Furthermore, online sportbooks quite often offer punters first deposit bonuses as well as a multitude of promos and offers that make it betting online a more viable option compared to brick and mortar sportsbooks.

With such a wide variety of sport to bet on as well as a boundless array of betting options it’s no wonder that more punters are turning their attentions to online betting.