As we here in Ireland have become more and more prosperous over the years, we also have more leisure time than our ancestors did and more choice as to what we can do with it. In spite of the ever increasing range of leisure activities we can now enjoy however, sport in various forms remains one of the most popular. Sport is even considered by some medical experts to be one of the most important elements of our health and well being. It is probably fairly obvious that playing sports is likely to keep us physically fitter, but apparently many mental health experts also believe that even watching sports and getting emotionally involved in the tribal aspects of following our favourite sides in the company of other fans also has a positive impact on our mental health and therefore our overall well being. In Ireland of course as in many other countries we also enjoy gambling on our favourite sports, and again we now have considerably more choice of sports and sporting events to enjoy than we had even as little as twenty years ago. The increase in the range of sports we can play has been a natural progression influenced mostly by television coverage of sports usually associated with other parts of the world such as basketball, American football and even ice hockey, but as far as sports gambling is concerned there is another reason. Twenty years ago most Irish sports gambling fans would almost certainly only be gambling on horse racing, the greyhounds or football, and most of them would be doing so either at the track or at their local betting shop. It was the introduction of online sports gambling which changed the scope of sports gambling worldwide. Here at gambling.ie we have been fortunate to witness how sports gambling has changed in Ireland since our leading bookmakers decided to follow the lead of our high street retailers and enable their customers to gamble online. Clearly it was a big step to take and required significant investment in the software and security systems necessary to ensure the financial security of their customers, but the idea of being able to do our sports gambling online from home was an immediate success. Since those early days of course we have also seen the growth of online casino gambling, with a huge range of gambling games now available at the online sports gambling sites operated by the leading bookmakers, as well as the introduction of specialist online casino gambling sites with no sports gambling option at all. The common factor with all of these online gambling sites however is the huge range of gambling options they offer us compared with a real casino or a betting shop.
Although we now have a much bigger range of sports gambling options as a result of the introduction of online sports gambling, gambling on horse racing is probably still our favourite sports gambling activity here in Ireland. Horse racing has almost become a national sport, with many horse racing related industries located here in Ireland and of course extremely successful trainers and jockeys. The popularity of gambling on horse racing in Ireland could not be better illustrated than by the annual pilgrimage of Irish horse race gambling fans to Cheltenham every year for the Festival meeting. Another sports gambling activity which has seen a resurgence in interest over the last few years is greyhound racing, which used to be considered to be the working man’s equivalent of horse racing but which fell into decline. Although online gambling on greyhound racing has become very popular, it is also true that attendance at all our tracks has also greatly improved and this is entirely due to the vast improvement in both the infrastructure and hospitality facilities at those greyhound tracks.
Before we move on to discussing the relatively new sports which are now attracting the attention of online sports gambling fans, we cannot ignore gambling on football. Wherever you are in the world, except perhaps in America, football gambling will be one of the major sports gambling activities. The game of football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world, and since the introduction of online football gambling it is almost possible to gamble on football every day of the year because matches are featured at the online sports gambling sites from all over the world. There are some who would argue that this worldwide coverage of football both online and on television is damaging our own domestic game, and that the English premier league and the Spanish and Italian leagues are attracting all the interest. There may be some truth in that, but football itself will always be the biggest sport.
As far as the sports which have only attracted significant gambling interest since the introduction of online sports gambling are concerned, one of the most pleasing aspects has to be the popularity of our own GAA sports of football and hurling. Most leading online sports gambling sites now feature these popular Irish sports, which means of course that they are also now available to all our expats across the world. There is no doubt that gambling on the GAA sports has grown as a result of the introduction of online sports gambling. There are of course a number of other sports which have benefitted from the availability of online gambling, including for instance the game of cricket. Gambling on cricket is of course almost an obsession in India, but has never seen much interest in Ireland until now. Online gambling is clearly not the only reason why gambling on cricket is becoming more popular, the new shorter formats of the game have also had a significant effect on its popularity among sports gambling fans.
National sporting success is also a very important aspect of a sport becoming more high profile, as we have seen recently with the success of the Irish rugby team, a number of high ranking golfers and even snooker professionals over recent years. The difference is that we can now easily gamble on those sports through online sports gambling sites.