There has been a great deal of discussion recently over the long term prospects for our high streets. It is certainly true that every retail sector on the high street is under pressure from the online retailers, and it is also true that online gambling is having a similar effect on our betting shops. There are of course many different reasons why both online retailing and online gambling are increasing in popularity, but there is no doubt that increased choice is one of the most significant. Online retailing is far cheaper than selling from any high street or even out of town premises, so there is clearly more scope for aggressive pricing, but the internet also allows online retailers to display a much bigger range of product. Adding a new product range to an internet site is far easier than finding room for it to be properly displayed in a shop or showroom, which is why some of the big retailers now site computer terminals in their stores for their customers to access more of their products online. This increased choice is also clearly apparent when it comes to the online gambling sites. The online casino gambling sites in particular now offer a vast array of gambling games, ranging from the traditional casino games such as roulette and blackjack to literally hundreds of slots gambling games. In terms of gambling options no casino, arcade or bingo club will ever be able to compete with the online casino gambling sites. The same also applies to our betting shops when compared to the online sports gambling sites. Before the advent of online gambling, sports gambling in Ireland was primarily restricted to gambling on horse racing, greyhound racing and to a lesser extent football. Unfortunately most of the high street betting shops still tend to concentrate their efforts on these three popular sports, whereas all the online sports gambling sites offer odds on a much wider range of sports and sporting events. For this reason any increase in the number of people gambling on sports and sporting events will almost certainly only be seen through online sports gambling sites, and not in our betting shops many of which we are told now rely on gambling machines to stay afloat. Online sports gambling has not totally changed our gambling habits however, we still enjoy gambling on horse racing with the track side bookies and our greyhound tracks are also enjoying increasing attendances now that their hospitality facilities have been updated. Nevertheless most of the growth in interest and turnover in sports gambling is concentrated in the online gambling sites operated by the big bookmakers. Unlike the online casino gambling sector where the leading bookmakers are facing competition from smaller specialist casino gambling site operators, all the online sports gambling sites are still operated by big bookmakers. Originally of course the first online sports gambling sites were established by the same bookmakers who owned all our betting shops, but there is now some competition from a couple of equally big bookmakers who only trade online.
All the online sports gambling sites have taken advantage of the fact that there are very few limitations as to how many options they can offer on an internet site, so they all quote odds on a huge range of different sports and sporting events. It really doesn’t matter what sport it is or even where the event is being held, it will almost certainly be featured on most online sports gambling sites. In much the same way as the big classic horse racing meetings attract far more attention from the sports gambling public than the less well-known meetings, major events in other sports now also attract more interest because they are easily accessible online. Six Nations rugby for example is a major gambling event while it is taking place, as is tennis during Wimbledon and even cricket during major tournaments. All of these sports are still comparatively minor sports from a gambling point of view, but they appeal to a different audience and therefore increase the overall gambling sports community. Whereas we probably wouldn’t consider gambling on sports such as cricket to be particularly big in Ireland in terms of popularity, the GAA sports definitely are and the online sports gambling sites have provided GAA fans with far easier access to gambling on any hurling and football match.
So far we have only discussed the wide range of different sports which the online sports gambling sites feature, but the fact that they also offer their customers access to sporting events anywhere in the world is an equally important factor in the success of online sports gambling. Football gambling fans for instance are no longer confined to gambling on European matches during our winter, they can also follow football matches being played in the southern hemisphere countries during our summer break. This ability to gamble on sporting events on the other side of the world is also extremely important when it comes to maintaining interest in some sports. Golf is a typical example of a sport in which the major tournaments which are more likely to attract interest from the gambling public, are played right around the world. The same is true of course for tennis, cricket and even snooker all of which are played all year round and all over the world. This worldwide access to online sports gambling has also raised the profile of a number of sports which are not even normally played here in Ireland. American football, baseball and basketball are all now available to follow on most of the online sports gambling sites, and they all now attract attention from sports gambling fans here. Equally expats from Ireland now have access to sporting events happening in their home country because the online sports gambling sites we know here are also accessible in America and right across the world. Online sports gambling has become more and more popular simply because of the range of sports and sporting events we are now able to follow online.