When the opportunity for us to enjoy gambling online was first introduced it was entirely focused on sports gambling because the first internet gambling sites were all operated by the big bookmakers alongside their high street betting shops. It was only when those online sports gambling site operators began to look for ways to increase the returns on their investment in online gambling that we saw the introduction of a few gambling games and the beginnings of what we now refer to as online casino gambling. Both of these online gambling sectors have one thing in common which has contributed to their success, and that is the huge increase in gambling options they provide when compared to any of their land based rivals. Anyone who has logged on to an online casino gambling site will have seen what a huge range of gambling games they all feature, particularly when it comes to the slots games, but the gambling options on the online sports gambling sites are equally varied and enticing. It is not that long ago that most sports gambling fans were limited to gambling on horse racing, greyhound racing or more recently football, because most of our high street betting shops tended to focus on these sports more than anything else. Gambling on horse racing is of course still very popular, particularly here in Ireland where the horse racing industry is also a massive contributor to our economy. Gambling on football is also growing rapidly partly because of the increasing television coverage of matches being played all around the world, but also because online sports gambling allows us the opportunity to gamble on games wherever they are being played. That of course illustrates another reason why online sports gambling is becoming so popular, because it is not just the increasing range of different sports and sporting events we can follow online it is also the fact the internet provides worldwide access so that we can gamble on our favourite sports wherever and whenever they are taking place. In fact from a sports gambling point of view there are no longer specific seasons for individual sports, we can now access coverage of almost every sport and sporting event wherever it is taking place. This is particularly important in the current environment in which professional sport is growing and professional sports people compete in tournaments almost all year round.
If we now examine how online gambling has affected our interest in some of the other sports we can even see a growing fan base for some sports such as American football, basketball and even ice hockey, none of which were accessible before online gambling became available. Once again of course improved television coverage is also a factor, as is the desire of many of these sports to expand around the world. There will clearly always be sports which are predominantly played in certain parts of the world, but that is beginning to change with satellite television and the internet contributing significantly towards that change. Our own GAA sports are another example of the influence of online gambling on sports which have previously been very insular in terms of popularity and gambling interest, generally being confined only to the island of Ireland. The introduction of online sports gambling has however enabled the millions of Irish expats now settled all around the world to keep abreast with the GAA sports taking place in their home country. There are of course very few sports which can be described as worldwide, although football is probably the nearest to that description, but the internet and online gambling are certainly contributing towards the expansion of some sports. Cricket for instance has never been a particularly popular sport here in Ireland, but in India it is a national obsession and gambling on cricket is the biggest sports gambling activity of all. Rugby is another sport which has only relatively recently begun to expand further around the world, although with the World Cup being played in Japan this year and many more teams attempting to break into the big time this is a sport which is ripe for further development. Rugby is also a sport in which Ireland have recently been extremely successful both at provincial and international level, which in turn has also led to a far greater audience for the game in Ireland and therefore also an increase in gambling on rugby. Clearly gambling on rugby always peaks during the Six Nations tournament, and we see a similar situation in many other sports. Gambling on golf for instance increases substantially during the Major tournaments such as the Augusta Masters and the British Open. Tennis is another sport in which gambling activity is always boosted during the big tournaments, as is snooker. All of these sports are of course also boosted by increased television coverage during the big events, and the amount of money gambled on these sports is naturally dependent on this television coverage. Snooker is probably the sport which has benefitted most from television exposure over the years, but more recently we have begun to see a similar effect from more coverage of the game of darts. Gambling on darts is a relatively recent addition to the sports gambling scene, but it is definitely growing in popularity as a result of increasing exposure on our screens. We have not covered anything like the number of different sports in which access to online sports gambling has played a part in their increasing popularity, but we have probably covered the biggest sports from a gambling point of view, particularly if we only consider those sports where gambling opportunities are available almost all year round. There is however another sport which can be defined as a worldwide activity, and that is athletics. From a gambling point of view athletics is another sport which tends to come to our attention only during major events. During the Olympics however gambling on athletics immediately becomes one of the most popular of all sports gambling options around the world.