Sports betting has been around for centuries, but not in the same way as today. The history of sports betting is filled with examples of people wagering on the outcomes of athletic competitions.
Sports betting has changed over time and continues to evolve as new technology comes out. Sports have always had a gambling element because there’s uncertainty about who will win and lose. Aside from placing bets on horse races, medieval Englanders also played games like cockfighting and bowling, which could be considered early forms of sports wagering.
In the 19th century, organized racing emerged, which led to bookmakers taking bets on horse races instead of just organized gaming houses or racers directly. Read on to learn more about the history of sports betting!
Ancient Times: Sport-Based Gambling Games
The earliest example of gambling for sport is a Mesoamerican ballgame, Ulama, played as long ago as 2000 BC. In Ulama, as in other games, two teams would face off by batting a ball with their hips while moving through a series of obstacles. If a ballplayer lost their ball while playing, they would have to pay a fine.
This fine could be paid with food, material goods, or another form of currency, which shows that this game was used as a way to wager on the sport. A more specific example comes from Greece in 566 BC. In that year, the Ancient Olympic Games were revived, and they have been running ever since.
The Olympics have always been held every four years in the same location, and one ancient historian recorded that the games used to have betting. Some historians believe that betting on the games was common practice, though there’s no written proof.
The Middle Ages: Cockfighting and More
The Middle Ages was when modern sports betting became popular in Europe thanks to the spread of online sports gambling. Throughout the medieval period, many people across Europe participated in various sports.
Many of these sports were originally used as gambling games in medieval Europe, and some were even created as gambling games. Chess, for example, was invented in India as a gambling game played using dice.
Other popular sports included jousting, in which two knights on horseback would charge at each other with lances, and bowling, which was originally played with bowling pins and a ball made of stone.
Other popular sports included cockfighting and bear wrestling. Like Ulama but with roosters instead of people, cockfighting was a common gambling game in medieval Europe. It was so popular that the term “a real cock-and-bull story” comes from how common it was for people to make up fake stories about the outcomes of their cockfights.
The 16th and 17th Centuries: Horse Racing is King
Horse racing became a common gambling game in the 16th and 17th centuries as more people became literate and newspapers became more popular. Newspapers created a market for gambling on horse races, as gamblers could bet on a specific horse after reading the newspaper and seeing the horse’s statistics.
For example, they might read that a horse ran with a 17-1 odds of winning. Other than horse racing, other sports became very popular in 16th and 17th century Europe, including tennis, bowling, and wrestling. The first documented boxing match was in 1681! This was also when baseball was first played in the New World, and it was originally a gambling game.
18th century to the 20th Century: Boxing and Baseball Take Center Stage
The 19th century saw the rise of baseball and boxing. Many historians agree that the first official boxing match took place in Great Britain in the 18th century and that it was a very popular sport among gamblers. The first recorded game of baseball was played in 1845 and was a gambling game from the start. These sports were so popular for gambling that they had to be banned in New York City.
21st Century and Beyond: Computerization, Esports, and Everything Else!
Throughout the 20th century, sports betting continued to grow and change as technology improved. In the 1990s, the internet became accessible to the general public. This led to the creation of online sportsbooks, such as UFABET 168, which allow people to bet on sports from anywhere. Over time, sports betting has changed and evolved.
New types of sports have become more prominent, and new forms of sports betting have been created. Computerization has helped sports betting in ways, from easier online betting to computer-generated predictions. And esports? Esports is now included in the list of sports that are wagered on!
The history of sports betting is filled with examples of people wagering on the outcomes of athletic competitions. Again, sports betting has changed over time and continues to evolve as new technology comes out.