Here at gambling.ie we often talk about how the introduction of online gambling has vastly improved our gambling options, both in the online sports gambling sector and of course even more obvious as far as casino gambling is concerned. Although it was generally the major high street retailers who were the first to establish internet sites which enabled their customers to purchase goods online, the leading bookmakers were not far behind. Neither the retailers nor the bookmakers knew quite how online trading would be received, nor how it would affect their high street operations if it proved popular, but they decided that they had no choice but to embrace this new technology. The general public proved to be very happy to be able to browse all the available products online, even if they then purchased their chosen product at a high street store, but when it came to online gambling the results were a little different. Most of the big high street retailers did not offer a much bigger range of products online than they did in their stores, so the additional choice came from browsing several different retailers or even looking at the manufacturers’ internet sites. From the very first however the online sports gambling sites set up by our big bookmakers offered a much bigger range of sports gambling options than they were ever able to offer through their betting shops. Up until that time most Irish sports gambling fans were confined to following horse racing, greyhound racing or football. Very few other options were ever advertised in our betting shops unless it was a very major sporting event such as Wimbledon or the Open golf. Gambling on horse racing is of course in our blood here in Ireland and horse racing fans were almost certainly the life blood of the high street betting shops, but how many other potential gambling fans were there who were more interested in other sports. The online sports gambling sites not only offered a much bigger range of sports for us to follow, they were also able to give us the opportunity to gamble on sporting events taking place on the other side of the world. This meant for instance that football gambling fans were no longer restricted to our season, they could still follow football from South America or Australia. Our football closed season is of course very short, but before the advent of online sports gambling cricket fans were faced with a very long closed season. Now they too can follow their favourite sport all year round from the comfort of their own home. There is no doubt that the online sports gambling sites have proved to be very successful in attracting new sports gambling enthusiasts, and the main reason for that is the much greater range of gambling options they are able to offer both in terms of the sports they feature and the all year round element of their sports coverage. There are now very few sports or sporting events for which we can’t access the latest odds at one of the big online sports gambling sites operated by the bookmakers.
What actual effect online sports gambling has had on the traditional method of gambling through the high street betting shops is difficult to judge accurately, because these new sports gambling fans who were never customers of the betting shops have added to the overall sports gambling turnover. Some of our leading bookmakers have expressed concern about whether their betting shops can survive in the new era of online sports gambling, and have used that concern to support their use of fixed odds terminals in their shops. Others however are slowly changing their minds about the need for those machines to support their high street operations. Interestingly we do not appear to be seeing any similar concerns in the real casino sector as a result of the introduction of online casino gambling. Our real casinos seem to be thriving in spite of the obvious competition from online casinos. The gambling options provided by online casino sites is even more staggering than those provided by the sports gambling sites, yet we still appear to enjoy an evening gambling at a real casino. Perhaps this is due to the improved hospitality facilities we can now find at most of our real casinos. The fact that our greyhound tracks have even seen a surge in popularity in spite of the rise of online sports gambling tends to prove that it is possible to compete with the internet on the sporting front. There has been a massive investment in greyhound racing over recent years and that is undoubtedly paying off.
Greyhound racing is clearly not the only sport where attendances at the events has remained high. Very few horse race meetings are not well supported at the track, as well as online and at our betting shops, and the same can also be said about top flight football. In spite of the convenience of being able to watch so many sporting events from home and also being able to gamble on those events online, we are still apparently prepared to pay out big money to actually be there. That is clearly part of our nature as sports fans. Most of our traditional sports appear to have been unaffected by the introduction of online sports gambling in terms of attendance, but we have also seen a massive rise in interest in some other sports which were probably never considered to be particularly popular in Ireland. American football, basketball and even baseball are becoming increasingly popular over here and attracting more and more interest from a gambling point of view. Online gambling has also led to an increase in gambling on our own GAA sports of hurling and football, all of which is a very welcome result of the decisions made by our leading bookmakers to offer us the opportunity to place bets on our favourite sports through their new online sports gambling sites.