For many years the main focus of sports gambling enthusiasts in Ireland was horse racing and football, and our betting shops were geared up to handle bets from sports gambling fans accordingly. Even now gambling on horse racing remains our biggest sports gambling activity, but the introduction of online sports gambling sites has significantly broadened our horizons and made gambling on minor sports far easier than it used to be. Unlike online casino gambling however, where the number of people gambling on casino games online probably now exceeds those attending a real casino, when it comes to sports gambling the online gambling sites are still just one of the ways that sports gambling fans can place their bets. There has been a lot of talk recently over the potential demise of the high street betting shop as a result of the increasingly widespread accessibility of online gambling, but the recent report from the Competition and Markets Authority regarding the proposed merger between Ladbrokes and Coral claimed that a significantly large number of people still prefer to do their sports gambling in the shops. In the case of gambling on horse racing there is also the opportunity for race goers to gamble at the track, both with bookmakers and the Tote. There is no doubt that for many people the most rewarding way to enjoy horse race gambling is to go to the track and place your bets in person. You have only to see how attendance at big horse race meetings has increased year on year even after online sports gambling became an option to know that horse racing fans will always prefer the atmosphere at the track and attend if at all possible. The same applies of course to another of Irelands traditional sports gambling activities, gambling on greyhound racing. Many would argue that greyhound racing is even more dependent on fans attending and gambling at the track, which is why track owners have invested so heavily over recent years in the hospitality facilities at the tracks, and by improving the experience of going greyhound racing have given gambling on greyhound racing a new lease of life.
Traditionally horse racing and greyhound racing are two of very few sports which enable their spectators to gamble on site, but this is of course where online sports gambling comes into its own. Access to online sports gambling sites is no longer restricted to PC’s and laptops. Many people now access their favourite sports gambling site through their mobile phone, and this enables them to enjoy in-play gambling from almost anywhere. For football gambling fans for instance in-play bets such as next scorer are increasingly popular and can now even be done from the ground. That of course applies to many sports, including the GAA sports, rugby, cricket, even snooker and darts. The fact that we are able to list what are perceived to be minor sports gambling attractions brings us to the next and potentially most exciting effect of the introduction of sports gambling online. Visit any of the major online sports gambling sites and the first thing you will notice is the huge range of sports we can now access and enjoy gambling on them. It is almost possible for sports fans to use an online sports gambling site as a calendar detailing every event anywhere in the world. This of course brings us to another new aspect of sports gambling now possible online. There are no longer any seasons for the avid sports gambling fan wanting to follow their favourite sport. For much of the year in Ireland for example there are no matches for a cricket gambling fan to enjoy, but cricket is being played all year round and gambling on cricket even when the game is being played on the other side of the world could not now be easier.
The popularity of gambling on many of these minor sports will vary of course and there are a number of factors which will influence how many people actually follow one of these sports regularly. First and probably most important is how successful we are as a country when playing the sport. For the last few years for instance Ireland have had a reasonably successful rugby team, also backed up by success for the provinces in the European Cup so as you would expect therefore gambling on rugby has been strong. Irish golfers have also been prominent over recent years and again gambling on golf has been popular. At the other end of the scale, in spite of the fact that many people do play tennis in Ireland we have not had a top ranked player for a very long time so gambling on tennis is a very minor sports gambling activity here in Ireland. Another factor which inevitably has an effect on the attention a particular sport is getting from the sports gambling community is how much publicity and media coverage a sport is getting at the time. During Wimbledon for instance our public tennis courts suddenly become popular and many of us will find ourselves gambling on tennis because it is on our television screens every day. Gambling on rugby increases significantly during the Six Nations tournament, and the same applies to golf gambling during the Masters and the Open Championship. The bigger the tournament and the greater the media coverage the more likely it is that we will be gambling on one of these minor sports. This year there is no doubt at all that gambling on football will probably break all records when the European Championships start in France. Not only is football one of our favourite sports gambling activities anyway, but we have the unique experience of having both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland qualify for the finals. The Olympics later this year is also likely to see us gambling on a range of different sports, many of which are hardly even on our radar most of the time. Even athletics is not generally regarded as a big gambling sport, but what about rowing, swimming, sailing and weightlifting, all of which will be gambling sports during the Olympics.