Gambling has a long turbulent history but the one constant thread is its continued popularity.
An Ancient Past Time
Gambling is almost as old as sport itself. There is evidence of betting in all cultures and continents; ancient records have been found in China, India, Egypt and Rome. Historically betting was popular in a range of sports from cock fighting to fist fighting.
Betting on Both Sides of the Atlantic
Modern day sports betting has taken two very different paths across the globe; with Europe embracing and regulating the industry and the U.S. continually debating the benefit of legalization. Still a current ‘hot potato’ issue, successive governments and states continue to act conservatively, erring on the side of caution; today just two U.S. states offer legalized gambling.
In the early nineteenth century, on both sides of the Atlantic, sports betting was a cultured, upper class pastime, centered around horse racing. A century later it had captured the imagination of the middle and lower classes. Organized bookies gradually developed a system of odds being allocated to particular horses and varying payouts being offered.
America initially embraced sports gambling but historically has had a hard time grappling with the ethics of the industry.
The end of the nineteenth century saw a gambling ban in the U.S. but during the 1930s depression it was given a reprieve. However a series of corruption scandals soiled the reputation of the game. The 1919 Chicago White Sox affair saw the bribing of eight players by gamblers looking to see their side lose the World Series. This, and similar stories, tarnished the reputation of gambling and saw public opinion turn against the industry.
U.S. states, each able to legislate on gambling in their own areas, deemed betting to be a social ill. However, prohibition drove gambling underground and 1950s America is synonymous with mob-run casinos.
Gambling in the States continues to cause controversy, with much pressure for legalization and some States seemingly close to reviewing their current arrangements.
Sports Gambling Across the Ocean
Sports betting gradually infiltrated other sports, with boxing and football being well suited to the industry. The arrival of televised matches added to the popularity of the sports flutter.
The UK has generally had an easier time accepting sports betting and gambling. In 1961 the government legalized gambling shops, putting in place a series of regulations to ensure transparency and honesty.
Betting Goes Online
Today gambling is enjoying increasing popularity on the net. Although legislation in the U.S. now also prohibits online gambling, in Europe and other continents it is a growth industry, reaching out to wider audiences.
Sports betting may continue to cause debate across society but remains deep rooted in the hearts of many.