History and Evolution of Sports Betting

There’s no denying that sports betting has become a crucial part of the gambling industry. One of the most popular gambling types, sports betting has made sporting events more fun, exciting, and profitable for avid gamblers.

But where did sports betting start, and how did it become as famous as it is today? This article will look at the history of sports betting: from its initial roots to its status as the go-to gambling option. We’re also looking into some scandals connected to sports betting and see its effects in the sports industry.

How Sports Betting Evolved

  • From Chariots and Gladiators of Ancient Rome
  • Galloping Through the 18th Century
  • Gradual Legalization in the US
  • Introduction of Online Sports Betting
  • From Traditional Sports to E-Sports
  • Sports Betting Scandals

What is Sports Betting?

Img source: theconversation.com

Before we look at the history of sports betting, let’s understand it.

In a nutshell, sports betting is the gambling activity of predicting the outcome of sports games and placing wagers based on the expected results. Offered by both land-based casinos and online gambling platforms like CUSL, sports betting covers many sports, including basketball, football, and horse racing.

Gamblers have several ways of betting on sports games, depending on the games played. These included point spreading, fixed odds, and money line bets.

Players can bet through casinos, sports bookers, or private individuals. Wins are determined based on the wager placed or the type of bet the player makes.

Over the years, sports betting turned into one of the most profitable gambling options available. In 2024 alone, sports betting netted around $203 billion globally.

Now that we have a simple background about sports betting, let’s turn back time and see how it evolved.

From Chariots and Gladiators of Ancient Rome

Historians can’t pinpoint the exact starting point of what we now know as sports betting. While the origin isn’t visible, experts agree that the activity has been going on for thousands of years.

One of the possible beginnings of sports betting is Ancient Rome, where spectators placed wagers on the outcome of events. Chariot racing and gladiator battles were some sports that potentially saw a lot of bets placed for winners or survivors.

Betting on these events was expected, and placing wagers seemed limited to within the city walls where the games are held. However, it did not hinder outside bets from occurring during these games.

Galloping Through the 18th Century

Img source: telegraph.co.uk

Sports betting in its modern incarnation began during the 18th century, where audiences placed bets on horse races. While betting on horse racing started in the UK in the 1600s, the practice turned mainstream a few centuries after. After some time, several significant countries soon adopted horse race betting, including the US, Canada, and New Zealand.

Gradual Legalization in the US

The next step in sports betting is adopting laws that govern gambling activities. As gambling involves the transaction of large volumes of money, there have to be legal regulations to manage and monitor the cash flow.

Not all states have legalized gambling in the US, while some states have regulations for some gambling, including sports betting. As of January 2024, 18 out of the 50 states have legalized sports betting, with other states working on its legalization. If you live in the US, it’s best to check your state laws regarding sports betting and gambling in general.

If you are in a location where sports betting is still not legalized, you can still place bets on sports games through sportsbookers. Going back to the practice in Ancient Rome, these sportsbookers take your money and place bets on your behalf. Winnings are then sent to you based on your agreement with the sportsbooker.

Introduction of Online Sports Betting

Img source: telegraph.co.uk

The internet changed the way people do things, including gambling and sports betting. Where you can only do traditional sports betting on certain locations at one time, anyone can place bets for their favorite games wherever through the internet.

Intertops, the first online sports betting site, was established shortly after the incarnation of online gambling sites in 1996. With the gradual success of Intertops, other sports betting sites soon popped up over the years.

Initially, online sports betting sites only allowed bets before games were held. This changed in 2002 when online gamblers could bet on live sporting events. Live sports betting saw tremendous support from bettors and became a staple part of modern online sports betting.

Another advancement in online sports betting was transitioning from major sites to mobile options, like mobile phones and tablets. The recent global pandemic also encouraged sports betting, as most land-based locations were closed to the public.

From Traditional Sports to Esports

Sports betting saw its beginnings in supporting traditional sporting events. From classic horse racing to modern sports like basketball and football, avid sports fans have betted on these games for a long time.

With the advancement of gaming technology and the introduction of esports as a legitimate sport, sports betting also embraced the new sporting field. Major e-sports tournaments for games like Dota 2, CS:GO, and League of Legends see a strong following in sports betting. The global esports betting market is worth about $30 million annually as of 2024.

Sports Betting Scandals

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When there’s gambling, there’s also scandals looming in the corner. And in the realm of sports and sports betting, the black sox scandal is one of the most impacting scandals.

In 1919, eight players of the Major League Baseball team Chicago White Sox allegedly took money from gambling syndicates to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. While the players were acquitted of the charges, they were banned from playing professional baseball.

The event still has a lingering effect on modern sports betting, even if it happened more than a century ago. The stigma of sports betting influencing sporting games is prevalent in the mind of the masses, especially in one-sided games.

Sports Betting Bright Future

Sports betting has undoubtedly grown and established itself as a major gambling activity. With its rich history and widespread appeal, sports betting is here to stay. Whether you’re a sports fan, an avid gambler, or a natural thrill-seeker, there is something in sports betting that will work for you.

Bogdan Radicanin
Bogdan Radicanin

My name is Bogdan Radicanin, but everyone calls me Boba. I also work as a full-time musician. I approach both jobs with a lot of passion, and I believe that's what makes me successful.