There has been a lot of debate recently regarding the fixed odds betting terminals now commonly installed in almost all our high street betting shops, and it now seems likely that the UK government in particular could go ahead and cut the maximum allowable stakes on such machines quite dramatically. The response of the big bookmakers to these proposals has always been that since the introduction of online gambling it is only the FOBTs that provide the money to keep those betting shops open. It is clearly difficult for any outside observers, including interested parties such as gambling.ie, to establish just how much danger there is of losing our betting shops, but there is no doubt that online sports gambling in particular has reduced the footfall in the betting shops in much the same way as internet shopping has affected the rest of the high street. In spite of the investment the big bookmakers have put into improving the atmosphere and experience of visiting a betting shop over recent years, most sports gambling fans with easy access to the internet are likely to choose to place their bets online rather than making an effort to visit a betting shop. It is of course not just the convenience of gambling online that has created that situation, it is also the huge increase in sports gambling options that the online gambling sites now offer. Most betting shops have always concentrated their efforts on just a few sports, with gambling on horse racing in particular their primary interest. In Ireland of course gambling on horse racing is still probably the most popular sports gambling activity, but whereas most of our betting shops really only offered gambling on greyhound racing or football as alternative options, the big online gambling sites feature a huge range of other sports and sporting events as well as an equally big selection of gambling games in the casino gambling areas of the sites. There will of course always be those horse race gambling fans who prefer to watch the racing in their local betting shop in the company of other regulars, but are there enough of them to maintain the profitability and therefore the viability of our high street betting shops. Almost every year the big bookmakers report that their online gambling turnover is growing as a proportion of their total annual earnings, and that is likely to continue in the foreseeable future because the increasing range of online gambling options is also attracting new customers with a whole range of different gambling interests. Even if we just examine how the sports gambling scene has changed as a result of the introduction of online sports gambling sites, we can see that gambling on horse racing, greyhound racing or football are no longer the only sports gambling activities to attract attention. All the big online sports gambling sites cover a whole range of different sports and sporting events from all over the world, and although many of them such as cricket are likely to remain minority sports in terms of gambling interest in Ireland, they still attract new gamblers who would not necessarily gamble on the more traditional gambling sports. It is also true that gambling on particular sports has always peaked whenever there is a major event, and the online sports gambling sites have been able to take full advantage of that without having to put in special promotions to get people into their betting shops.
A good example of this effect is the Six Nations rugby tournament, which started last weekend and has almost certainly resulted in a massive increase in the number of people gambling on rugby over the next few weeks. Major golf tournaments also result in a surge in gambling interest as do the big snooker tournaments. All these sports of course need television coverage to spur our interest but sports fans tend to need very little encouragement to watch almost any sport given the opportunity. Darts is one of the more recent sports to attract the attention of sports gambling enthusiasts, and gambling on darts is growing in response to more television coverage of the big tournaments in much the same way as gambling on snooker grew many years ago for the same reason. Online sports gambling sites also offer us the opportunity to follow sports which are not necessarily big spectator sports in Ireland, including of course the big American sports. Last weekend for instance also featured the biggest American football match of the year, the Super Bowl. It’s too early to say how many of us stayed up to watch, or how much we gambled on the match but there is no doubt that gambling on sports such as American football, baseball and basketball is becoming more and more popular as a result of both television coverage and being easily accessible on the online sports gambling sites. Here in Ireland of course we also have our own particular sports which are not necessarily played all over the world. The GAA sports of hurling and football are massively popular in Ireland and every major game attracts a great deal of gambling interest here, but because of the scope of online gambling worldwide these sports are also able to attract attention from Irish ex pats across the world. Many of us here in Ireland love to follow the big American sports, but the online sports gambling sites are also accessible to the huge number of Irish GAA sports gambling fans in America, providing a further boost to the gambling interest shown in these sports. The range of sports and sporting events which can be accessed through all our major online sports gambling sites is so big nowadays that sports gambling fans are almost spoilt for choice. It is almost true to say that there is no such thing as a minority interest sport nowadays and very few sporting events are not accessible to anyone wishing to place a bet on the result even if it is taking place on the other side of the world.