Online betting is a phenomenon which has taken the world by storm in recent years, with customers – or ‘punters’ as they are known – enjoying wagering money on everything from sports to casinos and lotteries. But anyone who thinks that betting is a new activity is very much mistaken. In this guide, we take a look at the origins of betting, and break down some of its most popular forms in the 21st century.
The History of Betting
Dice games go all the way back to Ancient Chinese and Roman times. In the medieval period, King of England Richard III’s archers were known to enjoy games such as backgammon during their downtime. Many of the games played in today’s on site and online casinos have rich histories, and that is certainly true of baccarat, the card game which was played in Italy and France way back in the 1400s. The game is now enjoyed in casinos all over the world.
Casinos themselves have their roots in Italy, dating back to the 1600s. They spread throughout the European continent, before eventually making their way to the United States. But long before gambling meccas such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City sprung up their own casinos stateside, gambling houses were a much more informal affair. The roulette wheel which we associate with these large gambling halls today has its origins in France, and more specifically 1700s Paris. Blackjack is another game with a long history, and is thought to be descended from the French game vingt-et-un, before taking on a distinctly American identity.
Sports betting – that is wagering on the outcome of a sporting event – has origins which go back almost as far back as dice and other games of chance. Roman emperors were known to place money on the outcome of chariot races.
The first recorded lottery systems go back to Ancient China, and it is thought that lotteries were even used to finance large national projects such as the Great Wall of China. Lotteries – that is the drawing of lots to determine prizes of cash or otherwise – were enjoyed in Roman times as a post-dinner activity. Public lotteries began to surface in Western Europe in the 15th century, with countries such as the Netherlands directing proceeds to help the poor.
Casinos symbolise some of the most glamorous settings to bet in, with iconic gambling hotspots across the world in locations such as Las Vegas, Macau, Havana, London and Paris. The term casino is loosely defined as a licensed establishment which houses some forms of betting activity, although many will associate them with luxurious locations in city centres – they are often adjoined to restaurants, hotels and shopping destinations. According to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, casinos in the United States generate more income than any country in the world, while for a single city market, Macau is top of the pile, followed by Las Vegas.
Casino players typically swap cash for chips which they can then use to bet in a number of games. Casino games are categorised as either table games or non-table games. Among the commonly played casino table games are:
Big Six wheel
Trente et Quarante
Non-table games are usually slot machines – which are manually operated by the player – as well as video lotteries, video poker, bingo and keno.
Since the birth of the internet, most of the casino game variants mentioned above are now available in online form. Players are able to become members of various online casino platforms, which may offer them bonuses and incentives to sign up or as loyalty rewards.
Operated as a casino offering but also independently in ‘bingo halls’, bingo has a large following in the UK and US, where it is often enjoyed as a regular social event. The forms of the game differ slightly between the two countries. In the US (and also in Canada) the game uses printed tickets of 25 numbers on a 5×5 grid, whereas in the UK, 15 numbers are commonly spread down three lines.
Betting on the outcome of sporting fixtures, or on events which take place within a game, is popular all over the world. Sports betting is typically done in bookmakers or ‘bookies’ as they are known in the UK and ‘sportsbooks’ as they are known in the US. Bets on sports can also be made on site at sporting venues such as race tracks, or online through a range of devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones.
The sports which are popular to bet on around the world include:
Football (known as soccer in the US)
American Football (known as simply ‘football’ in the US)
Betting on the outcome of a sporting event – for one team or individual to win, or on a draw or tie – is one of the most popular ways to wager money, and there are also many variants, depending on the sport. These can include an ‘each way’ bet, for which the punter collects winnings if his or her pick wins or comes in one of a predetermined selection of places.
For sports in which teams compete in league tables, bets may be placed on promotion or relegation, and within events or games themselves, individual achievements can be bet on. These can include ‘first goal scorer’, ‘top points scorer’, ‘highest wicket taker’ etc.
Lotteries are popular all over the world, and in many cases are run across a country by a publicly appointed organisation or commercial entity. Players pick numbers from a selection totalling around 50.
In Europe, the Euro Millions game combines the entries of several countries to offer a huge jackpot which commonly pays out tens of millions. If no winner produces the matching numbers, the jackpot can ‘roll over’ to the next week.
Betting is primarily for enjoyment, although there are several examples of professional betting experts who have made their name from repeatedly winning. They include the following high-profile stars:
Known as ‘Britain’s most successful gambler’, the Daily Telegraph reported that he has pocketed over ten million pounds from bookmakers thus far, and is so good at spotting opportunities in starting odds that he is banned from some betting outlets.
The famed football betting expert and mathematics graduate supports his wife and children comfortably, quitting his job as a programmer after football’s 1990 World Cup to become a full-time gambler.
Furber used to be an ardent watcher of reality TV programmes, and then he started betting on them and making lots of money. Rob Furber’s betting also extends to the Eurovision Song Contest.
Go It Alone or Follow The Tipsters?
Part of the fun of betting for some is backing their own judgement, and many take the ‘self-study’ approach. However, there are opportunities to benefit from the expertise of professional tipsters, who can guide you in the right direction when it comes to your bets. Check out Quentin Franks, who has a track record of identifying winning bets in horse racing, or take a look at Value Racing Tips on Betting Gods for regular expert advice.