Here in Ireland we have been gambling on horse racing and greyhound racing for a very long time and the number of people gambling on sporting events far exceeded any other form of gambling, The only other gambling activity that came close to gambling on sports in terms of popularity was playing bingo, whereas now since the advent of online gambling there are far more gambling options than ever before. The first online gambling sites were set up by the big high street bookmakers and were originally focused solely on sports gambling, but it wasn’t long before the site operators started to look for ways to maximise the returns on their investment in online gambling and began to introduce a few gambling games onto their sites. This was the start of a whole new area of online gambling which we now call online casino gambling, but there was a common factor in both of these online gambling sectors and that was a huge increase in choice. It is not just the ever increasing range of gambling games we can now play online, it was also the wide range of sports and sporting events that the online sports gambling sites covered. For those of us who were brought up in an era when sports gambling meant going to our nearest betting shop and being limited to gambling on the horses, greyhound racing or more recently football, the huge range of options available on those first online sports gambling sites were almost unbelievable. Not only could we easily follow what were then minor gambling sports such as cricket, we could gamble on sporting events taking place on the other side of the world. Many professional sports now have tournaments being held almost all year round, but the online sports gambling sites have given us the opportunity to follow our favourite sports wherever and whenever they are taking place. The online sports gambling sites and of course satellite television have combined to ensure that there are no longer seasons as far as sports gambling is concerned. Football fans for instance can watch and gamble on South American football or Australian football in the summer months, and cricket fans have similar choices during the winter. In fact there are very few sports which do not offer all year round gambling options somewhere in the world and where there are closed seasons they are usually very short.
There are of course a few sports which do tend to be played only in certain parts of the world, and our GAA sports are a typical example of that. The GAA sports of hurling and football do therefore tend to have relatively short seasons when compared to other sports which also means that the gambling opportunities are far more limited than many other sports in terms of the time of year, but online sports gambling has had another impact on specialist sports like these. There are thousands of Irish expats spread all over the world, and due to the introduction of online sports gambling they can now keep abreast of what is happening in their home country and follow their favourite GAA sports teams. In the other direction American football is rapidly expanding across the world with major league games already being played on this side of the Atlantic which naturally leads to an increasing interest in gambling on American football, which is of course made easier by the presence of online sports gambling sites featuring a full range of what are still currently minor gambling sports such as American football.
When it comes to any discussions relating to sports gambling, we also need to consider the impact of the big events in any particular sport. Everybody knows that the amount of money taken on the Grand National at Aintree easily exceeds that gambled on almost any other horse race in the world. Similar peaks of interest can be seen in golf during the major tournaments, tennis during Wimbledon and of course the Olympics and World Championships for almost every other sport. We are currently in the middle of another important tournament which always leads to a temporary surge in gambling interest, namely the annual Six Nations rugby series. This year of course rugby fans will also have the World Cup to look forward to, and Irish fans in Particular have plenty of reasons to be optimistic in spite of the recent defeat by England. That also brings us to another important factor in how the popularity of some of the minor gambling sports varies from year to year, and that is the success or otherwise of our own favourite competitors. Staying with rugby for instance, the recent success of our national team and our provincial sides has led to far greater interest in gambling on rugby. We have seen the same effect in golf over recent years with several Irish players being successful in tournaments all over the world. Irish sports gambling enthusiasts in common with gambling fans from other parts of the world love winners and will always therefore pay more attention to sports where Irish competitors in particular are being successful. In this article we have tended to pile all the praise for increasing the scope of our sports gambling options onto the introduction of online sports gambling, but the effect would not have been quite so dramatic without the huge expansion in satellite television coverage of sporting events across the world. Television coverage is one of the most important factors in the success of any sport in terms of audience, a situation many of us witnessed a number of years ago when snooker first began to become a widely televised sport. Darts is currently undergoing a similar transformation due to increasing television coverage, and there are high hopes that the same surge in interest will be seen in many of the women’s sports which are now attracting more attention from the satellite companies. Women’s football and netball are already gaining increasing audiences for that very reason.