The History of Sports Betting and Bookies
Sports betting is one of the most popular pastimes in the world. We love the thrill of the games, and betting on them creates even more excitement. For some, it’s a hobby, and for others, it’s their primary source of income. We’re going to take a look back at how sports betting started and how it’s evolved since its foundation.
The first records of sports betting dates back about 2,000 years ago. Along with the famous Olympic Games, the Greeks also introduced the world to betting on athletics. People in similar classes would make bets on the outcome of the games. Soon after, the Romans adopted betting, and the government legalised it. Romans placed bets on chariot races and gladiator games. Although the gladiator games didn’t survive, sports gambling persisted down through the years.
Legal or Illegal?
Sports gambling has had its ups and downs with the law. During Medieval times, many religious leaders created laws to forbid it. However, people would then do their sports betting underground.
The spread of sports betting took off as more people practiced different games around the world. People were figuring out how to bet on sports without officials knowing. This created a lot of crime, as sore losers would hide to avoid paying their debts. This resulted in organised crime. Sports betting has always been a topic of discussion in politics within national governments. Some realised that if sports betting was taxed, it could help raise money for the citizens. If I were made legal, then there would be a way to regulate it.
In 1190, the Kings of England and France created the first gambling laws. It limited those who could gamble and how much people could gamble. If you broke the law, then you’d be whipped and would have to pay a fine to the church.
Regardless if nations deemed sports betting illegal or not, you could still ensure that it was going on somewhere in pubs or in private houses.
The First Bookmaker
The United Kingdom was one of the places that sports betting thrived in. Going to the horse track at the weekend became a huge attraction among the wealthy and middle class. Sports betting was also popular with football. Before the bookmakers, there were only bets based on the winner. In football, you’d bet on Team A or Team B to win. Whichever team won, that’s who won the money.
The same was true with horse racing, and you’d bet on the horse you think would win. In the 1700s, Harry Ogden, a wealthy sports bettor, noticed that some horses were better than others consistently. He watched as one horse was in the leading half, and the others were always in the losing half. From this observation, he created odds on how a horse would perform in a race.
This was the first time that horses had different prices, and it changed sports betting forever. The punters could decide to bet on the safe horse, or be riskier and go with the least likely horse to win in the hopes of making a more significant profit.
Ogden spent most of his time at the horse race track of Newmarkets Health in Suffolk County. He announced his odds there and allowed people to bet with him, based on what he thought. The businessman in him was always looking to make a profit, and he was wealthy enough to pay out those who won. However, he crafted the odds to always go in his favour; regardless of the outcome, he’d make a profit. From this point on, sports betting changed, and more bookmakers started popping up at racing tracks around the UK.
Issues with Bookmakers
The rise of bookmakers created problems again for gambling. There weren’t any regulations or laws that bookies had to follow. This resulted in bookmakers who didn’t pay out correctly.
To help solve this problem, people created written contracts when they placed their bets with a bookie. However, the courts were becoming filled with punters demanding their payouts from the bookmakers.
The government wasn’t collecting taxes on money made by gambling, so it felt that it wasn’t their problem to fix. To create some regulations for sports betting, parliament in England established the 1845 Gaming Act to help control sports betting.
The 1845 Gaming Act
The 1845 Gaming Act was the start of gambling regulation, but it didn’t do too much. This didn’t outlaw punting but suggested not doing it because all bets weren’t enforceable as a legal written contract. This meant that a bookie didn’t have to pay winners, and there was nothing that the punter could do about it.
This didn’t solve many problems as gambling still took place. It benefited the wealthy and gave less power to the middle class.
The 1853 Betting Act
The British government thought that the 1845 Gaming Act would stop a lot of people from gambling, but it did the opposite. More betting houses started to pop up, and betting on the streets continued unabated.
People couldn’t get enough of sports betting, and the possibility of winning big on the next race. The 1853 Betting Act outlawed any gambling that would take place outside of the tracks. This meant that no betting could happen in either private homes or in the streets.
This was great news for the bookies because that meant that they’d be the only ones making all of the profits and becoming more prosperous. During this time, the middle class started to have weekends off and paid vacations. It created a love of going to the horse tracks, gambling, drinking and enjoying the race.
The Rise of Greyhound and Football Betting
For a while, horse racing was the most popular sport to bet on. In the 1920s, the Americans brought over greyhound racing to the UK. Many greyhound tracks were set up in inner cities.
Bookies aimed greyhound racing more towards the middle and lower classes; it left the horse racing to the wealthy.
In 1923, John Moores Littlewoods introduced football pools to sports betting in Liverpool. These pools allowed people to make bets for a low cost, which attracted the middle and lower class crowds.
The gambling laws that were in place didn’t mention football because it was a game of skill, not of chance. It excited people because you could win thousands of pounds by only betting a penny.
The 1960 Betting and Gaming Act
This act has shaped how we bet on sports today. It legalised betting shops in the United Kingdom. Bookmakers could post odds in their building on horse racing and multiple other sports including, football, rugby, greyhound and cricket.
It created a place in which all sports betting could go ahead and not be limited to just one field. This made international sports betting possible as well. Most bookies ultimately moved out of race tracks to create their own betting shops.
Technology’s Influence on Bookmakers
Problems arose again when technology changed everything in our lives. The internet allowed us to start communicating with people all over the world in seconds. Bookies saw this as an opportunity to entice more gamblers from around the world.
Intertops was the first online bookmaker. Bet365 and Unibet went online soon after. Anyone could start a website and offer gambling on sports. No regulations or laws forbade it, which created scams and fraud for many punters.
Soon, the government had to take a look at sports gambling and revise it again. The 2005 Gambling Act protected bettors online and regulated the use of honest online sportsbooks. Parliament created the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, which licenced online betting sites. The UK Gambling Commission makes sure that online sites are operating legally, and if a bookie wants British gamblers, then it must be licensed by them. It keeps betting fair and punters safe.
Sports Betting Today
Sports betting hasn’t stopped yet. Many people all over the world enjoy wagering extra money on their favourite teams. The 2005 Gambling Act and the United Kingdom Gambling Commission still function and ensure safe online gambling.
Although many people still go to see the games live, a lot of people bet on sports online. People love the idea of gambling at home and watching events on television.
There are many types of sports betting now, including in-play betting, which allows punters to bet while the game is in progress, rather than settling all bets before the match begins. There are millions of betting strategies to use online, and statistics are readily available on each and everyone.
The sports to bet on are continuing to increase. Sportsbooks online offer 50 or more sporting events to bet on including darts, ping pong, motorsports and more. You can also bet on esports, virtual sports, entertainment, politics and more. Online sportsbooks compete for punters by offering bonus codes and loyalty programmes. We can bet on the go with our mobile phones and mobile betting apps. We’re likely to see even more updates and changes to sports betting as we continue moving into the future.
The Bottom Line
Sports betting has come a long way since the Greek games. We’ve seen it go from legal to illegal to legal again many times. There can be no doubt that there’s something about gambling that we can’t get rid of.
With the increase in availability in sports gambling, we’ve also seen a rise in gambling addictions. This is when people continually chance their losses to get a big win. Some people wager thousands of pounds or euros on sports betting.
The online sportsbooks make it so easy to deposit and wager money with just a couple clicks. Even now, bookmakers just keep on getting richer. If you think that you have a problem, Gamblers Anonymous can help you cope with your gambling addiction.
Overall, sports betting has become just as exciting as watching the game itself.