Sports betting has become a popular hobby worldwide, shedding its former taboo status. The COVID-19 pandemic played a role in this shift, prompting countries to see it as a valuable source of tax revenue. Market research suggests that this sector could reach annual revenues of $182 billion in the next seven years, growing at a rate of 10.3% annually.
Evidence of sports betting dates back to Ancient Greece, where people enthusiastically wagered on events like the Olympic games. This practice remained popular through the Middle Ages. The term “bookmaker” as we know it today emerged in the early 19th century, when bet acceptors began keeping ledgers to record bets. In the mid-1850s, the UK enacted laws to regulate and formalize betting.
The Digital Revolution:
Online gambling became a reality in 1994, thanks to Antigua and Barbuda’s Free Trade and Processing Act. This allowed companies to operate online gambling businesses. Other regions like Curacao and Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake followed suit. In the 1990s, offshore bookies were the primary option, but after 2000, many countries established their own licensing organizations to regulate the industry.
The past two decades have seen remarkable advancements driven by new payment systems, including online vouchers, e-wallets, and cryptocurrencies. Gamblers can now even stake digital in-game items. Betting via smartphones has become the norm, with platforms offering in-play wagering and live streams. High-end bookmakers employ data analytics and machine learning to personalize offers, manage risk, and set odds. Blockchain technology has brought transparency and security to the industry, while AI has elevated customer care and fraud detection.
The landscape of sports betting has transformed dramatically, from ancient Greece to the digital age. What was once a niche pastime has evolved into a thriving industry, shaped by technological innovations and regulatory changes. With the continued growth of sports leagues and events, along with the ever-expanding reach of internet infrastructure, the future of sports betting looks poised for even greater advancements.