History of Sports Betting

Anyone who has ever placed a bet on a sports game will have an idea of how fun and rewarding sports betting can be. Modern online sports betting sites offer bettors the opportunity to bet on sports, entertainment, financial markets and elections from any computer or mobile device. But where did it all begin? The true origins of sports betting dates back plenty of years. In fact, it is almost impossible to find out where and when betting on sports came into practice.

Ever since there has been organised sports, people have been betting on the outcome. Even children have a natural desire to bet on who can win a running race or a game of tag. The instinct to bet has always been a part of the human condition and will continue to be so. The earliest records of sports betting can be found in Europe. The ancient Greeks were perhaps the first to record their sports betting practises when they placed wagers on athletic events. Their love for sports soon extended into wagers on the outcome of certain events. Sports betting might not have been legal, but it was certainly very popular.

Gladiator Betting

The Romans were also well known for placing wagers on sporting and social events. Roman Emperors took the concept of wagering to a whole new level with the legalisation of betting at the circus, and for chariot races. Gladiator games were also major betting events were bookmakers took thousands of bets on which Gladiator would win the matchup. The biggest bettors at the time were the Emperors themselves, who bet on just about anything they could find. The Roman emperor Augustus was well known for his frequent betting activities.

Throughout the ages, people were involved in betting on sporting matches with friends and at illegal betting parlours. However, it wasn’t until the 1800’s that modern legalised sports betting became common practice. What we can consider moderns sports betting came about in 19th Century England. Of all the sports that people could bet on, pedestrianism, or the sport of race-walking was the by far the most popular. Betting on pedestrian races became so popular that race fixing became a big problem in the sport.


In 1880, the Amateur Athletic Association was founded to help curb the rampant spread of race fixing, along with other shrewd tactics used to influence the outcome of such events. As the popularity of Pedestrianism faded, many other sports came to the fore with horseracing becoming one of the largest in England and Europe. Today horseracing has remained one of the most popular betting markets anywhere in the word. Sports betting practices in Europe and England soon began to spread to other countries with the USA picking the concept with great gusto.


In the US, baseball became the most popular betting sport anywhere in the country. At the time and still today, only a few states have legalised sports betting. As happened with pedestrianism, the sport of baseball soon became corrupted with match fixing. While nothing was ever proven in the beginning, players were known to throw games in return for a bit of a payout. When the Black Sox scandal came about in 1919, it was soon revealed that other teams such as the Louisville Grays had been throwing games since the beginning of 1877.

Baseball remained the most popular betting sport in the US well into the 1920’s. Eventually, other sports such as basketball, American football and horseracing all became popular betting markets. In Europe, sports betting saw a massive increase around the 1930’s to 1940’s which as dubbed as the golden era of sports betting. At the time, just about every sport that was played on an international scale became a popular betting market.

The First Betting Shops

It was also around this time that professional bookmakers were established in city centres. This was where bettors could go and bet outside of the actual event. Bookmakers would use their keen knowledge of the sport or race to set specific odds for each event. These slowly evolved into the land-based betting shops most people are familiar with in Europe and the US. Today, the world of sports betting looks a little different. In addition to land-based betting stores, bettors have the option of betting online or on their mobile.

Modern Betting Practises

Internet betting may have had a slow start but it has become the most popular form of betting anywhere in the world. With the rise of mobile technology, mobile sports betting has taken over as the most convenient method to place a bet and check the odds.

The realm of sports betting has also expanded to include entertainment, such as betting on television programs, election betting as well as financial betting. In fact, there if very little that one cannot place a bet on these days whether it is a boxing match or the name the next Royal baby!