For many years the favourite gambling activity in Ireland was undoubtedly sports gambling, and in particular gambling on horse racing. Our love of horse racing has in fact been so great that it has created and supported one of the country’s biggest business sectors over recent years, with Irish trained horses successfully competing all over the world. It is often said that without the thousands of Irish horse race gambling enthusiasts prepared to travel across the Irish Sea, even race meetings as important as the Cheltenham Festival would struggle to survive. How much truth there is in that statement is clearly impossible to say, but there is no doubt that horse racing needs its Irish fans. Gambling on horse racing is of course not the only sports gambling activity with a long history in this country. Gambling on greyhound racing has also been a major sports gambling for many years, and although the sport went through an unfortunate period during which lack of investment in the tracks led to a serious decline in attendances and gambling interest, we are now at last witnessing a huge resurgence in gambling on greyhound racing. Most of our greyhound racing tracks have been upgraded over the last few years, and can now offer the sort of excellent hospitality facilities which are necessary to appeal to the modern breed of greyhound racing enthusiast. An evening at a greyhound meeting is now once again an exciting experience, but it is also a comfortable one in a customer friendly environment. Both of these sports are of course dependent on gambling to be financially viable, and they still rely heavily on the fans who attend the meetings and gamble with the trackside bookies, as well as the contributions made by the high street betting shop operators. Since the introduction of online gambling however we have seen a significant change in both the sports gambling sector and what we now refer to as the casino gambling sector. The number of people now playing gambling games online has grown massively since the bookmakers began to introduce gambling games to their sports gambling sites, and although sports gambling has not seen the same level of increased participation there has been a significant move from gambling at a betting shop to gambling online. Both of these gambling activities have of course benefitted hugely from the increased choices which the online gambling sites offer over any of their land based rivals, and betting shops in particular are generally unable to compete with the choices offered to sports gambling fans online. Apart from horse racing and greyhound racing, the only other sport which was regularly promoted in our betting shops was football, and although gambling on football is still extremely popular in Ireland there are now so many easily accessible alternatives for gambling fans to enjoy online. Almost all the first online gambling sites were set up by the leading bookmakers such as Paddy Power who also ran the betting shops on our high streets, but online sports gambling has proved so successful that the online sports gambling market has been joined by several very large online bookmaking companies which have never had a high street presence and only operate online.
The advent of online sports gambling has raised the profile of a number of sports which used to be relatively minor in terms of gambling interest in Ireland, and has even boosted interest in gambling on the GAA sports of which we are so proud. Irish interest in gambling on many of the alternative sports we can now access online is of course also dependent on how successful we are in that sport. At the moment for instance gambling on rugby is very popular because our provincial sides have been extremely successful over recent years, and of course Ireland’s success in the Six Nations this year boosted that interest even more. Golf is another relatively minor sport in terms of gambling interest which has become much higher profile over the last few years because of the success of Irish players. The same has also been true of snooker, although gambling on snooker has not been as great as it used to be because of the reduced terrestrial television coverage since the glory days of the sport. Conversely we are now seeing much more coverage of darts on television, and because it is so easy to follow all of these previously minor gambling sports online gambling on darts has increased accordingly.
Here at gambling.ie we think there are several other elements of online sports gambling which are proving to be important factors in its success. One of those is the worldwide access available through the online sports gambling sites. A good example of the influence that this widespread access has had on sports gambling in Ireland can be found in the effect it has had on gambling on the GAA sports. Nowadays gambling on Hurling and Gaelic football is not just confined to fans living in Ireland, it is also available to all the millions of Irish expats now spread across the world. All these Irish GAA sports gambling fans can now follow their favourite teams wherever they are in the world. Similarly there has also been a surge in interest in gambling on what have always been primarily considered to be American sports. Gambling on sports such as baseball, basketball and gridiron football is increasingly popular right all over the world due in part to the easy access we now have through the online sports gambling sites. Online sports gambling has also reduced the effect of specified fixed seasons on many sports. Football for example is available all year round for online football gambling fans, as is cricket of course. In fact there are very few if any sports which are not available to sports gambling enthusiasts all year round since the advent of online sports gambling and that has led to many professional sportsmen having very little rest with tournaments and tours throughout the year.