Almost every day there is another example of how the internet is changing almost every aspect of our daily lives. Many of us spend our working lives in offices surrounded by computers, or are able to work at home because we have access to the internet and can easily communicate with colleagues or customers through email or one of the other contact networks now available online. Even if we are not able to work at home, many of us will certainly use access to the internet almost every day for many other important tasks. We can do our weekly shop online, pay our utility bills and manage our bank accounts online. We can even research and book almost every aspect of our holidays online. Nowadays there is in fact very little we can’t do using the internet through one of the many devices we now own. Even how we spend our leisure time is often now dependent on internet access, including of course our gambling. It is now almost twenty years since the leading high street bookmakers began to establish their first online sports gambling sites, and the number of people doing their sports gambling online has grown rapidly ever since. The same applies of course to what we now call online casino gambling, which is another area of online gambling which grown rapidly in popularity since the sports gambling site operators decided to add a few gambling games to their sites. The success of both online sports gambling and playing casino gambling games online in many ways mirrors how the internet has affected other business sectors across the world, particularly the retail sector of course. We have seen how internet only retailers such as Amazon have changed the retail market, and we can now identify a similar situation in the online gambling sector with online only bookmakers and new specialist online casino gambling site operators regularly coming on stream. Fortunately the effects have not been as dramatic as we have seen on our high streets, and our real casinos and bingo clubs do not seem to have suffered as badly from the introduction of online casino gambling as many retailers have from online shopping. There has however been a slightly more noticeable effect when it comes to the introduction online sports gambling, and although we have not yet seen wholesale closures of the betting shops on our high street, many of them are certainly under pressure. The biggest problem for our betting shops is that they cannot easily compete with the range of sports and sports gambling options available on an online sports gambling site. For many years our high street betting shops tended to concentrate on horse racing, greyhound racing and of course football, with many other sports only becoming prominent during major events or not at all. Gambling on tennis for instance would be promoted during Wimbledon in Ireland and the UK, but ignored for the rest of the year. The same was likely to happen with gambling on golf or snooker, both of which only came to prominence during major tournaments in spite of the fact that both these sports are now played throughout the whole of the year.
Another advantage that the online sports gambling sites have is that they are available 24 hours a day, so sports gambling fans are no longer limited to placing their bets when the betting shops are open, they can enjoy their gambling whenever it suits them. The most popular sport among sports gambling enthusiasts in Ireland is probably still horse racing, both online and at the tracks, but gambling on greyhound racing is also enjoying a bit of a revival since all the greyhound tracks have been modernised and their hospitality facilities improved. Football is of course the most popular sport in the world, so gambling on football is always going to be high on the list of gambling activities wherever you are in the world. Although gambling on these three sports will probably always be the biggest sports gambling activities in Ireland, there are a number of other sports with a substantial following among online sports gambling fans, particularly during major events or where we have individual or team success. Rugby is a typical example of how the recent success of our national side and our provincial teams has boosted interest in gambling on rugby. We also have a number of very successful golfers, which again has increased the interest in gambling on golf in Ireland. Gambling interest in both of these sports is also significantly increased during their major events of course, with the Six Nations and tournaments such as the Augusta Masters attracting attention even from people who may not necessarily be regular golf or rugby fans. Whilst we are discussing gambling on what we would normally consider to be minor sports, this season could represent a major breakthrough for cricket in Ireland with their first ever test match against a top rated test side. Other sports which do not need such a boost in Ireland are of course the GAA sports, but even here the availability of online sports gambling sites has increased the number of people gambling on these sports. Gambling on the GAA sports also illustrates another factor when it comes to the effects of online gambling on a sport. Almost every country in the world has an Irish population of some sort, and access to online sports gambling enables any of those expat communities to keep in touch with and gamble on our GAA sports wherever they are in the world. Similarly we have access to sports which we do not generally play here in Ireland. The top American sports of baseball and gridiron football are now accessible through the online sports gambling sites, as is basketball and even ice hockey. All of these extremely popular sports can now be accessed at any of the major online sports gambling sites, and as a result are available for us to gamble on whenever we choose.