The history of sports gambling in Ireland prior to the introduction of online gambling was concentrated almost totally on our high street betting shops. Many of us will remember that betting shops were not allowed to have window displays or any advertising, and tended to be drab, dark and not very appealing places to spend time. It was also true that sports gambling in our betting shops was almost entirely focussed on horse racing or to a lesser extent greyhound racing. Even football was not the big gambling event it is today. Nowadays of course the betting shops have been allowed to take steps to attract customers, with window displays featuring special offers and bright cheerful interiors. However many of our betting shops are still struggling to compete with the online sports gambling sites and have controversially installed games machines or fixed odds betting terminals as they are often referred to in order to remain viable. What they have done is to dramatically expand the range of sports they cover to try to compete with the huge range of sports featured on the online sports gambling sites, and although it is impossible to cover everything they have certainly improved the service they provide to their customers.
In spite of the huge choice that online sports gamblers now have it is true to say that in Ireland horse race gambling remains the most popular sports gambling activity. The sport of horse racing is of course almost totally dependent on the sports gambling community, bookmakers and punters, so it is fortunate that we still appear to enjoy a day at the races and attendances at the tracks remain high in spite of our obvious love of gambling on the internet. Another sport which has apparently survived the rise in online sports gambling in Ireland is greyhound racing. In fact greyhound racing is a perfect example of what has to be done to compete with the massive choice of leisure activities we now have. After many years in the doldrums the tracks have been totally revamped and updated, and now all have modern hospitality facilities which make an evening spent watching greyhound racing a thoroughly enjoyable experience with attendances continuing to increase.
Online sports gambling sites have given us the chance to gamble on a huge range of sports from all over the world, but there is no more global sport than football. What has happened to the game of football across the world is quite staggering, and gambling on football is now very big business. Walk past any betting shop in Ireland and there will be odds displayed in the window for at least one big football match, often from the English Premier league and designed to encourage us to go in and place a bet. Clearly these betting shops believe that of all the sports gambling options we now have it is gambling on football that is rapidly becoming the most popular. Apparently Irish football gambling fans are even regularly gambling on matches from the Spanish and Italian leagues as well as the Premiership, and that brings us nicely to the influence of television on our sports gambling habits.
When a sport starts to get good television coverage and exposure there is an immediate surge in interest in that sport right across the board. That was proved many years ago, long before satellite television when snooker first hit our screens. Many of us still find it difficult to believe how popular televised snooker became in spite of the fact that most of us were watching in black and white at the time. The effect of television on our sports gambling activities is also very apparent during specific tournaments. The Six Nations rugby tournament for example attracts huge gambling interest during the tournament, yet far less over the rest of the season. The same applies to tennis during Wimbledon, or golf at the Masters and the Ryder Cup. Even football sees a further increase in the number of people gambling on football matches during tournaments such as the European or World cups.
Something else that inevitably effects the degree of interest we show in particular sports is success. When Irish teams or players are successful that sport immediately becomes more attractive to our gambling instincts. This was again recently proven for the game of rugby when the Irish team had a sustained period of success in the Six Nations and our provincial sides were among the top sides in Europe. When analysing why particular sports attract more gambling interest than others it is also important to look at the national sports of particular countries across the world. Now that sports gambling online has provided us with the opportunity to gamble on sporting events anywhere in the world and at any time of year there has for example been an increase in gambling on American football and baseball. Gambling on ice hockey and basketball is also increasing in Ireland in spite of the fact that neither could be considered a major sport in the country. We do of course have our GAA sports to offer other countries, and whilst gambling on the GAA sports is naturally a popular pastime in Ireland it is also popular in the States where there is a huge Irish born population.
We have mentioned several sports in this article which have proved popular gambling options, particularly since the introduction of online sports gambling sites. Some of these were always popular in Ireland, others less so until either television or internet sports gambling sites brought them to our attention. Online sports gambling has also provided us with another sports gambling option with in-play gambling. The improved coverage of sporting events on television or the internet, plus the ease and convenience of online sports gambling means that we can now gamble on a range of potential occurrences during a game or sporting event, and this has also expanded the range of sports which are attracting our interest. We have by no means covered all the sports which Irish sports gamblers enjoy following, but it is clear that online gambling has increased our scope.