There is no doubt that gambling on horse racing is almost part of our culture here in Ireland, so much so that there is also a huge business sector in Ireland based entirely on the sport of horse racing. For such a relatively small island we can lay claim to many of the best jockeys and trainers in the world who were either born in this country or now choose to live here, and of course horse racing also plays a huge part in our economy. There have of course always been a few other sports that sports gambling fans here in Ireland have enjoyed following o many years. Greyhound racing for instance has also always been a popular sport for sports gambling enthusiasts and although it has been through a period of decline over recent years, new investment in the tracks and the hospitality facilities has been able to revive the sport of greyhound racing and bring it back to its rightful place as an exciting leisure activity and an excellent gambling option. By far the biggest change in our sports gambling activities was however the introduction of online sports gambling. It is only slightly more than twenty years ago when the only way to enjoy gambling on sports was through the high street betting shops, most of which were focused primarily on horse racing or greyhound racing because these were the two most popular sports among gambling enthusiasts at that time. It was only when the big bookmakers decided that they should invest in the technology and software necessary to introduce online gambling sites on the internet that our sports gambling options began to increase significantly. Clearly one of the huge advantages of operating any internet site is that there are very few limitations on the range of products and services you are able to offer your customers, and that has proved to be particularly true on our online sports gambling sites. Nowadays there are very few sports and sporting events we can’t access on the increasing number of sports gambling sites operated by the major bookmakers. Almost all of the online sports gambling sites we can now access here in Ireland cover a huge range of sports and sporting events from all over the world, and the effects of that widespread coverage have not only changed the gambling sector they have even changed the way many of the individual sports now operate.
Very few sports now have discernible seasons for example, because most can be played all year round somewhere in the world. This has led to a big increase in the number of professional sports because the competitors can now compete all year round and have access to bigger prize money through increased sponsorship. Tennis and cricket are two excellent examples of sports which used to be considered to be summer sports in this part of the world, but are now played professionally all year round. The combination of worldwide satellite television coverage and access to online sports gambling sites on the internet has made this possible by increasing potential audiences and therefore attracting the necessary sponsorship from the business world. There has never been any doubt that if any sport is made accessible to a bigger audience, more people will begin to take an interest. Many of us will remember how the game of snooker took off as a result of increased television coverage, and how the prize money grew as a result of the larger audiences. We are currently seeing a similar growth in interest in the game of darts as a spectator sport for the same reason. The popularity of particular sports is of course totally down to television coverage, there are many other reasons why a sport may attract more attention. One of the more obvious of these is probably where for instance an Irish team or individual becomes successful. Over recent years we have seen the effects of that success in both golf and rugby, both of which have attracted far more interest from the general public because we have had a number of high profile Irish golfers ranked among the world’s best, and because our national and provincial rugby teams have also been successful at the highest level. As more people become interested in a particular sport so more people begin to gamble on that sport.
It is also true of course that gambling interest in a particular sport increases during major events because of the increased publicity which tends to go along with the big occasions. In horse racing for example the amount of money gambled on the Grand National or the Epsom Derby far exceeds any other race in the calendar. Gambling on rugby increases dramatically during the Six Nations every year, and any world championship or world cup in any sport inevitably attracts more gambling interest than we would see during the normal season. There is of course another important aspect of online sports gambling and that is the worldwide nature of the internet. We can now access a whole range of different sports which have previously not been particularly popular here in Ireland. American football for example is becoming increasingly popular as a gambling option, as is basketball and even baseball because we can follow them online as well as on satellite television. It also means that our own specialist GAA sports such as hurling and football are also available to the many Irish expats spread around the world so that gambling on these sports is no longer confined to Irish residents. There is of course one sport which we have not yet mentioned and that is football. Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport everywhere in the world, both from a playing aspect and also when it comes to sports gambling. No other sport attracts the same degree of attention across the world than football. Wherever you travel in the world the names of star European footballers will be recognised, and you will also find enthusiastic fans of the big clubs such as Manchester United, Real Madrid and Liverpool.