Over the last few weeks in the run up to Christmas we have read an awful lot about how internet shopping is destroying the high street. Clearing the online retailers have a huge advantage over their high street rivals in terms of operating costs, but they also have another significant advantage which is often ignored in the discussions. An internet site has an almost unlimited amount of space in which to display the products they are attempting to sell and can therefore feature a much wider range of products than most retailers who rely on operating from a shop or even an out of town warehouse. The online gambling sites also benefit from that ability to offer a much bigger range of gambling options than their high street rivals. So far we have not seen the closure of our betting shops as a result of the increase in popularity of online sports gambling, and hopefully we won’t because they still serve a very useful purpose in combating the sort of problem gambling that can arise from gambling alone. The betting shops, casinos and even the slot machine arcades do however have the same disadvantage as the high street retailers when it comes to the range of gambling options they can offer compared to any of the online gambling sites. The range of sports and sporting events covered by the big online sports gambling sites is huge, and certainly far more comprehensive than any high street betting shop could hope to compete with. The betting shops are still an excellent way to gamble on horse racing, greyhound racing and even football, but that is about the limit in most shops and to be honest they do not even pretend to cover every event or match even in those categories of sports gambling. Very early in the development of the online sports gambling sites the bookmakers recognised that it was the ability to cover a much greater range of sports and sporting events that would be one of the biggest selling points for online gambling. This wider range of sports gambling options was also the best way to encourage more people to get involved in sports gambling as a whole because it would appeal to a much wider audience than a high street betting shop. In spite of big improvements in the atmosphere of our betting shops over recent years there were still a large number of potential sports gambling fans who simply did not like going into a betting shop and therefore rarely placed a bet.
Clearly horse racing and football are still two of the most popular gambling sports even online, but the difference is that the online sports gambling sites can easily cover race meetings and football matches from all over the world, therefore virtually ending the concept of sporting seasons. Football fans here in Ireland can not only follow the big European leagues, they can also access the Australian leagues for instance during our close season. Professional sport has of course progressed over the years and there are now many sports which hardly have a close season at all. Tennis and golf are just two examples of how some sports simply move around the globe as the seasons change. Cricket is another sport in which there no longer seem to be seasons and professional players simply travel to where the weather is most likely to be suitable for them to play. The increased popularity of gambling on cricket is also a good example of how online gambling has changed our behaviour. Gambling on cricket is of course very big business in countries such as India where cricket is almost a religion, but it has never been that big in Ireland or even in England. Nowadays because of access to online sports gambling cricket fans can always find games being played somewhere in the world and are therefore able to follow cricket almost all year round.
There are of course many reasons why a particular sport can attract more attention from the sports gambling community, and one of those is success. Irish cricket for example has recently improved dramatically in terms of results, and our golfers have also had considerable success so both of these sports have also proved increasingly popular among Irish sports gambling fans. The same applies to rugby of course where Ireland have been hugely successful on the world stage and are now widely forecast to be among the favourites for the World Cup next year. Our provincial rugby sides are also winning on the European stage and this success has undoubtedly raised the profile of rugby as a sports gambling activity. Television coverage is another vital ingredient when it comes to raising the profile of a particular sport, with the game of snooker perhaps the best example of the effect of television in recent years. We are seeing the same sort of effect for the game of darts. Some would argue whether darts is a sport at all but there is no doubt that more and more people are gambling on darts than ever before. Online sports gambling has also boosted the popularity of our own GAA sports for some reason, not only here in Ireland but increasing among the numerous Irish expat communities around the world. That of course is another advantage of online sports gambling because the sites can be accessed almost everywhere in the world. It is also one of the reasons why the big American sports such as Grid Iron football, basketball and even baseball are now becoming more important as gambling sports. Some of us are even gambling on ice hockey games being played across North America at this time of year. The introduction of online sports gambling sites has increased our sports gambling options so much that there must be very few sports or sporting events that do not attract some gambling interest here in Ireland. Some say that we would even gamble on tiddlywinks given half a chance.