What are the Origins of Bookmaking: Who Started It?


Introduction to Bookmaking History

Origins of bookmaking

The need to know the exact origins of something can be the bane for many curious minds. The simple reality that something exists is far from enough. Instead, curious minds want to know how something came into being. Why does it exist? And, who started it?

Like most things, the answers to these questions aren’t particularly straightforward. Punters must be aware that there were other forms of gambling different from online bookmakers and their sportsbook platforms and casinos before. Typically, a series of events and occurrences lead to a culminating point through which something exists. If you’ve ever spent a day at the track, and you’re one of those curious minds, then you’ve likely wondered about the history of punting. You might not even have thought of punting as a whole, but bookmaking in specific.

In this article, we’ll have a closer look at the origins of bookmaking and who the first bookmaker was.

The History of Betting

Before we can look into the profession of bookmaking in a way that makes some sort of sense, we first need to take a closer look at the history of punting. Experts in gambling and betting history (yes, some historians study the history of gambling for a living) believe that betting dates back to the days of the Neanderthal.

Of course, this form of person would have been a very rudimentary type. Historians aren’t quite sure what Neanderthals would have had to bet on, but theories range far and wide. It’s also believed that Neanderthals played sorts of games. Scientists believe that they found the first scoring systems in some caves.

Perhaps the Neanderthals bet on the outcome of these games, or maybe they bet on who’d catch tomorrow’s supper. Much of this can’t be proven, but one thing’s for sure: betting is a part of human history.

The History of Racing Horses

Betting began to take shape as a potential career many, many years later. Let’s have a bit of a look at horse racing and the origins of horse racing bets to solidify the facts. Around the 12th century, crusaders from Great Britain brought back Arab stallions. They proceeded to breed these stallions with English horses.

The result was the very first line of thoroughbred racing horses. In fact, to this day, any purebred racing horse is known as an English thoroughbred. The line originated in England, and England still holds the honour of having brought them into being. Horse racing and punting have had a rocky and turbulent history.

Matters were complicated during the initial stages by sporadic bans placed upon importing and exporting horses for breeding stocks. At times, limitations were lifted, and horse breeders could import and export at will. At other times, it was thoroughly illegal to bring a horse into or send a horse out of England. Had it not been for these laws, English horse racing breeds would likely have been established much sooner.

To further complicate things, a ban was declared on all English horse racing activities at one point. All racehorses were repatriated, and it was declared illegal to host or be involved in horse racing activities. It’s pretty amusing that Oliver Cromwell (the man who instituted the ban) kept his English thoroughbred racehorse during the horse racing prohibition. This ban only lasted for ten years, however, and three purebred types of racehorse were imported into Britain immediately afterwards. These racehorse types were the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Barb. They soon became the foundations for a whole host of horse racing lines.

The History of Horse Racing

The Home of Horse Racing

During one of his long trips, King James the First discovered a small town called Newmarket. To this day, Newmarket is known as the home of horse racing in England. King James established a race track in this small town where horse races could be run. It was here that horse racing began to take shape as an official sport.

Of course, far proceeding Newmarket was the Chester racecourse, but their moment of glory was yet to come. King James took horse racing to a new level and was responsible for creating a sport that took place regularly.

Tracks organised and held races regularly, and punters had the option of making basic wagers. Usually, a nobleman, or wealthy person of good repute, would pay for the prizes and host the event. The first officially recognised wager on horse racing in Great Britain took place as a straight bet between two friends.

Lord Salisbury and the marquess of Buckingham wagered £100 on the results of a race between the horses that they owned. The race and wager took place in the year 1622. After King James, the First, horse racing continued to grow and flourish during the reign of Queen Anne and her successors.

The History of Bookmaking

History of bookmaking

Finally, after much contemplation and deliberation, after many winding roads and a lot of information, we finally get to the topic of the article. Let’s see why all of the other information was so important.

Bookmaking was born at the Newmarket Heath racetrack in Suffolk County. A man named Harry Ogden was the first to take wagering beyond the simple bet and lay system. After spending much time at the racetrack, observing the different horses, different jockeys, and how the track conditions affected them, Mr. Ogden decided to reinvent the system.

Until that time, the only available wagering options were to wager on the favourite or the field. In other words, you could only bet or lay for or against the favourite. Mr. Ogden changed all that, however, by creating odds for every horse in the race. He turned a profession that had offered precisely two options, into a job that offered a myriad of wagering opportunities.

Not only did he open up a whole new world for punters, but he opened up a whole new world for bookmakers that eventually led to modern-day mobile betting and made it possible as well. One can’t help but wonder if Harry Ogden, with his simple improvements on the wagering system in the 1790s, could have foreseen the multi-billion pound industry that it has become today.

Today, it’s not only possible to bet on horses, but also real and simulated races, sports, games, events, and even the Olympics. There are even several different ways of expressing the odds. Honestly, as far as bookmakers go, Harry Ogden is the founding father. As a finishing touch, let’s wrap everything into a neat little bow.

In Conclusion

In the early times of Great Britain, King Athelstan liked to racehorses for sport, but little or no punting was involved. In the 12th century, the crusaders brought back Arabian horses that fathered the first racehorses.

Later on, King Henry the 8th laid the foundation for legalised horse racing. After a very turbulent time, King James the First established the Newmarket racetrack in the 1700s and laid the foundation for modern horse racing and wagering.

In the 1790s, Harry Ogden came along and revolutionised wagering forever. We hope that you’ve enjoyed taking this journey with us through the history of bookmaking. We certainly enjoyed guiding you through it. If you have other questions about wagering and gambling, we offer many similar articles – why not check them out?

Javia Alex
Javia Alex is an expert-level Copywriter/Editor with a wealth of experience in the iGaming scene. A self-described player advocate, Javia’s player-first mindset, “tell it like it is”, has earned her an oft-cited voice across gambling circles. She frequently works late nights and long hours, fact-checking reviews and pages for accuracy.