History of Sports BettingEver since the introduction of sports, ranging from local cockfights to major Mayan ball games, there have been people compelled to place bets on the probability of the results. The history of sports betting takes us back hundreds and even thousands of years, but its unprecedented growth in the 19th and 20th century has brought us where we are today.
When colonists from England journeyed to the great continent in the west, they also brought gambling and sports to what would become the greatest nation in the world, where gambling and sports betting would accelerate along as the nation would arise. In many ways, it would seem like sports betting was a natural part of the culture to most Americans.
Today, sports betting is a staggering $100 billion industry with millions of global sports betters. According to some research, 25% of all Americans have bet on sports and approximately 15% do so on a regular basis. With the public introduction of internet, sports betting has now spread to every connected home in the world – betting has never been as simple as it is now.
History of sports gambling
In the 19th century, when it took off for real, organized sports betting was a luxury that could only be afforded by the upper class. Horse racing was by far the most popular betting event and would remain number one for over a century. But after the end of the Civil War in 1865, new horse tracks started changing the landscape of America and suddenly, even the average Joe was placing bets.
At first, horse betting was far from the hassle-free event it is today. Back in the old days, bookmakers would start auction pools on each and every horse on the track, which was troubling since it would only allow one bet per horse. Obviously, this formula was short-lived because only a few would want to bet on a horse they didn’t believe in. This is why the formula was improved and based on odds; the more bets a horse would have would alter the odds. Whenever a horse or two received too many bets, the bookies would simply lower the odds of other horses and make them more attractive.
Horse racing would eventually hit a wall. With 314 tracks in the United States and the spread of other attractive sports, everything slowed down and reached a peak in 1925. At this point, professional leagues received growing attention, but baseball was without a doubt the fastest-growing sport. When people turned to the sport, bookmakers followed. Football and its history of betting was yet to come, however.
Meanwhile, the professional baseball salaries did not match the revenues that the bookmaking business generated. From a historical point of view, a betting scandal was imminent. In 1919, the Chicago White Sox were involved in the Black Sox Scandal, where gamblers had bribed eight of the players to bail out of the World Series. Illegal as gambling was, when this scandal was covered in media, people’s opinions of gambling took a turn for the worse. Fortunately, the scandal had no long-term impact on the sport itself.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas
Much of what would come to happen with gambling and sports betting was decided in the state of Nevada. Since its gambling legalization in the early 30’s, Nevada turned negative figures into the opposite and recovered faster than any troubled state had done in American history. Las Vegas became a popular tourist attraction and gambling suddenly became a crucial source of income. Although sports betting had little to do with this at first, things changed when a growing number of sports enthusiasts emerged. It was, however, illegal until 1951 when the Congress passed a legislation that would legalize it with an established 10 percent tax.
After adding the imposed tax, it would take another 20 years for sports betting to finally become widely accepted. Until then, small businesses were operating on large grounds, but struggled with the high taxation. This obviously forced a lot of sports betting clubs to go underground. Ironically, the sports betting tax was under heavy fire, and when the Congress agreed to lower it to a mere 2 percent, this would eventually kill the small sports betting clubs. Suddenly, competition took a turn for the worse and when the billion dollar gambling industry wanted in, small sports betting clubs couldn’t oppose. From this point, and with the help of new tax cuts, almost every hotel and casino resort in Las Vegas implemented a sports betting section.
Sports betting was booming in Nevada for over 30 years until the end of the 20th century. Recently, however, reports have been suggesting a slow decline in bookmaker revenues. Experts point to a growing international sports betting market, but most importantly the world wide web. Internet has forced a lot of business to rethink the strategy, as betting is no longer restricted to specific locations, but can be performed anywhere at any time. We are now taking part of the history of online sports betting.