From Fixed Odds to Online Sports books: A History of Football Betting

These days, if you want to bet on a soccer match, whether it’s a local Major League Soccer match or a match from the Premier League or La Liga, all you have to do is log on to your favourite online sports book. There are hundreds of different football odds and bets to pick from, making football one of the most popular sports to bet on. This wasn’t always the case, though. Betting on football is now much simpler than it was in the past. This article will trace the evolution of football betting from its earliest days to the modern day.

The Start of Football

Football was in its infancy when the first modern version of the game appeared in England around the year 1863, many decades before online sports betting became popular. Bets were placed on the outcomes of sporting events, as might be expected. However, at this early stage, most wagers were placed amongst acquaintances. The wagers, however, became more serious as the sport gained popularity. The Betting Houses Act was passed because the government realised that people were gambling in pubs and other shady enterprises. As a result, the conditions were ideal for the underground bookies who were operating in alleys and parks at night.

Fixed-odds Betting Introduction

Oddly enough, football had a pivotal role in the development of fixed-odds betting, the most common form of sports odds today. The sport’s popularity skyrocketed at the end of the 19th century, and it wasn’t long before newspapers recognised the game’s financial potential. Readers who were able to correctly anticipate the outcomes of the weekend’s matches were rewarded with prizes. These payouts were predetermined, giving rise to the term “fixed odds” to describe the entire system. In most cases, the prizes weren’t monetary, therefore they were able to skirt the law on sports betting.

The Initial Football Pools

The first football pool was held in 1923. In 1923, the first of these was sold near Old Trafford. For a long time, this was the only option for anyone interested in betting on football within the law.

John Moores, a wealthy supporter of Manchester United, started the first corporation to run football pools. Moore’s wife persuaded him to keep on with the football pools even though the business looked dead, and it paid off. Moore became a millionaire by the 1930s, and the company’s success spawned copies across the country.

Since participants in these soccer pools were betting on actual games they were witnessing, the activity was not illegal under the Betting Houses Act. They thrived right up until the regulations were drastically altered in the ’60s.

As Gambling Laws Evolve

It had been unlawful to “resort to any place or person for betting and bookmaking” since 1853 when the Betting Houses Act was passed. The data from the 1840s and 1850s suggests that the majority of those jailed for entering betting establishments were members of the working class.

The Betting and Gaming Act of 1960, however, recognised that those in authority could not indefinitely prevent sports betting. As of May 1960, this allowed legal betting parlours to open on sidewalks around the country. In just a few short months, thousands of these stores appeared. After some initial hiccups, licenced betting houses eventually emerged where bettors could place a wide variety of fixed-odds wagers on soccer games.

Global Popularity of Football and the Rise of Online Sports Betting

Of course, the advent of the internet completely revolutionised the sports-betting industry. After the success of internet casinos, the first sports betting site went live in 1996. However, one must keep in mind that the industry was in its infancy, and that most wagers on the results of games were fixed-odds wagers. In-play wagering, which began in 2002, has quickly become a favourite way to wager on football matches.

The history of sports betting in the United States follows a different trajectory from that of football betting in the United Kingdom. Since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) made it an offence to bet on sports in pretty much every state except Nevada for nearly 26 years, most US bettors placed their bets via offshore betting sites at the turn of the century. Thankfully, the Supreme Court struck down that restriction in 2018, and today there are numerous legitimate American online football betting companies.

Even though Major League Soccer was established in 1993, soccer was not yet a mainstream American sport. There is no denying that the popularity of football in the United States has increased over the past decade thanks to the legalisation of betting on matches played outside of the country. The FIFA World Cup, the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League, and the EUROs all draw huge audiences and bettors from all over the world because of soccer’s worldwide popularity.

The Rise of Football

Football wagering has come a long way from its dark beginnings when it was done only among friends and acquaintances. Football betting has risen to prominence as a result of the proliferation of fixed-odds wagering and online sportsbooks. The World Cup and the Premier League, two of the most watched and heavily gambled upon sporting events in the world, are prime examples of how football’s worldwide appeal has contributed to the boom of the betting industry. It will be interesting to watch what the future of football betting and the sports-betting industry holds as technology continues to advance.

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