The increasingly widespread availability of the internet over the last twenty years has changed the way we do almost everything in our daily lives including how we spend much of our leisure time. The internet has also significantly increased our options in many areas, including of course our gambling options. Although the most obvious example of this increase in gambling options lies in the huge number of gambling games we can now play at any of the many online casino gambling sites, we have also seen a substantial increase in the number of sports we can follow on the online sports gambling sites operated by the leading bookmakers. The original online gambling sites were all set up by the big bookmakers, and were specifically targeted at their sports gambling customers most of whom would usually place their bets in person at their local betting shop, or perhaps operate a telephone account again through the betting shop. It was hoped that introducing the opportunity to place sports bets online would attract more of the potential sports gambling fans for whom visiting a high street betting shop was not an easy option for geographical or even work related reasons. There is no doubt that the online sports gambling sites did attract many new sports gambling enthusiasts, but it is difficult to know exactly whether that was due to the convenience of online gambling or the fact that the online sports gambling sites all offered a much wider range of sports than were generally available for betting through the high street shops. One of the biggest advantage that internet site operators have over any organisation that needs to physically display their product is that they can easily offer a much greater range of products. Most online sports gambling sites can therefore easily quote odds on a huge range of sports and sporting events from all around the world, and this increase in sports gambling options has attracted a greater variety of sports fans to the idea of gambling on their favourite sports. Until online sports gambling became widely available most sports gambling fans in Ireland for example would probably mainly follow horse racing or maybe greyhound racing, partly because there were very few alternatives available in most betting shops. Gambling on football was gradually increasing in popularity but that was a sports gambling option which was generally restricted to the football season. That brings us to another reason why online sports gambling has changed our gambling habits. Football gambling enthusiasts can now gamble on football all year round because all the big online sports gambling sites offer odds on matches being played all year round and all over the world. Online sports gambling sites together with the specialised satellite television channels have combined to ensure that the old fashioned concept of sporting seasons no longer applies.
Generally speaking of course gambling on football all year round means that fans are following different teams playing in different leagues, but there are now many sports in which the same players travel around the world with very few breaks. Tennis and golf are typical examples of how some professional sports have become accessible to sports gambling fans all year round. As we have already indicated the internet is not the only reason why some sports have been able to increase their profile and their global audience. Television and particularly satellite television has also been instrumental in the increased popularity of many sports. Many years ago a programme called Pot Black became hugely popular in the UK despite most people watching on black and white televisions, and the game of snooker has not looked back since. More recently we have seen the same sort of effect with the game of darts, again due largely to more television coverage. The fact that most internet sites are accessible throughout the world also means that those sports which would normally be considered have a limited potential audience because they are not widely played can still be popular in gambling terms. A typical example of this would be the GAA sports of football and hurling, clearly played almost exclusively in Ireland, but with Irish sports fans scattered around the world now able to follow the games the gambling interest has increased. The same applies to the primarily American sports of grid iron football, baseball and to a lesser extent basketball. All of these sports are growing in popularity across the rest of the world in part due to their accessibility through the online sports gambling sites. The fact that many sports are now played all year round means that they have a regular following for most of the year, but that audience is boosted dramatically during major tournaments or events. There are many people for instance who enjoy gambling on rugby throughout our season here in the northern hemisphere, but many more will join them during the Six Nations tournament or a British and Irish Lions tour. Gambling on tennis is also significantly greater during Wimbledon than at any other time of year, as is gambling on golf during the British Open. The Irish Open or of course the Ryder Cup.
The degree of interest in gambling on some of these potentially minor sports also depends in part on the success of our local heroes or our National team. Here again gambling on golf in Ireland is much greater when Rory McIlroy is successful, and over the last few years our Irish provincial sides and our national teams have had considerable success on the rugby field which again always leads to an increase in gambling interest. We have in fact almost become used to Irish success in rugby and golf, but recently we have also seen our National sides reach new levels of success in other sports. Our ladies hockey team for instance got to the final of the World Cup a couple of weeks ago, and even the Irish cricket team are now achieving an unprecedented level of success which will undoubtedly lead to an increase in gambling on cricket.