There are a wide range of gambling activities enjoyed in Ireland, but most people would probably consider sports gambling to be the most popular. Certainly before the advent of online gambling that opinion would probably have been unquestionably correct, but now that we also have access to an enormous range of gambling games online the situation may well have changed. Gambling on bingo and the traditional casino gambling games such as roulette and blackjack has always had a big following in Ireland, and it’s also true that most of us enjoy playing slot machines and so the huge range of online slots games have also proved very popular. Whether or not online gambling has tipped the balance of our gambling activities away from sports gambling towards gambling on games we will probably never really know, but there is no doubt that sports gambling remains at least as popular as it always has been, if not more so. The online sports gambling sites have also of course provided us with a much wider range of sports gambling options, so it is quite possible that the number of people regularly gambling on their favourite sports has in fact also increased since online gambling became accessible. Prior to the introduction of online sports gambling, there is little doubt that gambling on horse racing was the most popular sports gambling activity in Ireland, and Irish horse racing fans were happy to travel quite big distances to visit their favourite tracks, particularly Cheltenham of course. Those who could not go to the track would place their bets through their local betting shop, and probably stay to watch the races with their friends. For many years gambling on greyhound racing was also extremely popular because most meetings were held in the evening so that greyhound racing fans could get to the track after work. There has always been a certain amount of discussion as to whether greyhound racing was actually the poor man’s equivalent of horse racing, but if that was true in the past it certainly is not true today. The greyhound tracks suffered for many years from a lack of investment, but that situation has been totally reversed over recent years and a night at a greyhound race meeting is now a very popular experience for everyone. Greyhound racing does of course have several advantages over horse racing as far as the spectators are concerned, and now that the hospitality facilities at most tracks have been upgraded to modern standards the popularity greyhound racing has reached a new high. Before the bookmakers set up their online sports gambling sites, horse racing and greyhound racing were often the only sports featured in our high street betting shops, except perhaps for football. Gambling on football in Ireland has grown very rapidly over recent years, although most of it concerns the English Premier League rather than our own local teams. The rapid growth in televised football is of course the main reason why gambling on football has become so popular, but the introduction of online sports gambling sites has also had a significant impact on gambling on football. It is not only the English leagues which are now accessible to football gambling fans, they can now follow football from all over the world and of course throughout the year. Internet sports gambling has meant that there are no longer specific seasons for ardent sports fans, and almost every sport is available all year round.
Although the sports we have covered so far in this article are still undoubtedly the most popular from a gambling point of view, the introduction of online sports gambling has focussed attention on a wide range of other sports and sporting events. Gambling on rugby for instance now has a significant following, particularly with the regular Autumn internationals and of course the Six Nations tournament. These games are of course televised and therefore easy to watch, but the popularity of gambling on rugby is also partly due to the fact that Irish teams have been very successful over recent years. The same applies to gambling on golf. We now have a number of successful Irish golfers from both sides of the border, and that has contributed significantly to the increased number of us following golf and gambling on the results of tournaments across the world. We can’t satisfactorily discuss the effects on online gambling on the popularity of particular sports without mentioning our own GAA sports. Clearly the Irish have always loved our hurling and football, but not all of us can get to a game and even if we did the gambling odds were unlikely to be featured clearly in our betting shops and gambling on the GAA sports was therefore minimal when compared to other sports. Nowadays of course we can access the gambling odds online for every game, as can all the Irish expats across the world, so gambling on these GAA sports has grown accordingly. Talking about the accessibility of the GAA sports across the world as a result of the advent of online sports gambling, we should also consider how sports such as baseball and American football are also gradually becoming more popular in Ireland. Again this is partly due to increased television coverage, particularly through the satellite channels, but almost all the major online sports gambling sites cover most of the big games in America and therefore make it easy for us to gamble on the results. Television coverage is undoubtedly just as important as the internet in changing our sports gambling activities, with probably the most obvious example being the popularity of snooker. Playing snooker was generally restricted to the snooker clubs and some social clubs for many years, and was not really considered to be a spectator sports at all. That all changed when snooker began to be televised, and many of us can remember being glued to our screens late into the night to watch the end of a match. Where televised snooker went all those years ago we are now seeing the same effect with the game of darts.