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A Short History of Sports Betting

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Betting online is easy these days - but it wasn't always the case

There has been some form of sports betting for about as long as there has been sports in the United Kingdom. But most gambling before the 20th Century concentrated on casinos and gaming. It was only later that betting on sports became more popular.

Gambling seems to be everywhere these days - and the marketing of betting firms has become almost ubiquitous. So how did we go from a pastime of the aristocracy to an industry open to anyone with a wifi connection able to access sites like www.vegasbetting.com to find the best odds?

Origins of Betting in the UK

Up until the mid-16th century, all gambling was legal. But with very little organised sport, there was not actually that much to bet on. Most gambling was centred on personal bets between individuals. But it was seen as such a problem that an act in 1851 declared all betting illegal. The law was not enforced though - and further acts restricting official betting came and went without much power for years.

Betting on horse racing had been popular since Tudor times, but it really took off in the 18th century. Until then there had been gambling at race meetings. But it was other forms of gambling that remained more popular, like the emergence of lotteries starting in 1710.

Horse Racing and Greyhounds

It was later in the century that horse racing started to become very popular - and betting on races naturally followed. By 1869 the amount of money wagered on horse racing had doubled, as technology allowed more people to be informed of what was going on. The Sporting Times and Sporting Life newspapers both flourished as the appetite for sports betting grew.

In the 1920s a new and exciting sport - and betting opportunity - became incredibly popular. Crowds flocked to greyhound racing and even more money exchanged hands as the number of meetings grew. WW2 slowed domestic betting, but huge bets were placed on horse races in Ireland and even the popularity of anti-gambling organisations waned as the government saw betting as a useful way of keeping the spirit of the country as high as possible.

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The popularity of greyhound racing boosted the betting firms' profits for a while

Betting and Gaming Act of 1960

By the early 1960s, the popularity of greyhound racing was decreasing - and that was further exemplified by the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960. Gamblers were now able to place bets in bookmaker shops and attendances at the racetracks plummeted.

Betting was still heavily concentrated on horse and greyhound racing. But as the crowds dwindled and tracks closed, there were fewer races to actually bet on. Betting on football was still relatively rare as single-game wagers were not allowed, although the Football Pools was incredibly popular across the country.

Online Revolution

Football is now the most popular sport to bet on in the UK. But it has only been that way since the beginning of the 1990s, when the Premier League was established and television broadcasting deals meant more live games and much more money in the sport.

But there was a bigger development just around the corner that changed the face of betting forever. The beginning of the online revolution saw a whole host of new bookmakers entering an unknown market and trying to gain a foothold against some of the more established betting firms. At a time when winnings were still taxed, there was an offshore exodus that saw companies attempting to circumnavigate the regulations to attract more customers.

Taxes on individual bets disappeared in 2001 and technological advances have made it even easier for anyone to log in and place a bet. This has been met with criticism, as there has also been a rise in problem gambling. But there is no doubt that the internet has opened up the industry to millions more people and completely shifted the core demographics for betting companies.

There will undoubtedly be further regulation in the future. But the popularity of online betting will only increase. Gambling on sports has always been a favourite pastime in the country - but now more people than ever are able to bet on more sports events than ever before.

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