Historical Sporting Events That Helped Shape the Sports Betting Industry

The sports betting industry is massive. A multi-billion-dollar industry. So big, in fact, that some events have completely shaped the way the sports betting industry works. We’ll dive into them here.

Depicting how sports gambling goes way back to Ancient times. This is showing Gladiator games
Depicting how sports gambling goes way back to Ancient times. This is an AI rendered image showing Gladiator games in the Coliseum.

The Olympic Games

Nope. We don’t mean the modern Olympic Games (although, that does attract a fair number of bets, of course). We are talking about the original Olympic Games in Ancient Greece (or, we suppose, gladiator fights in the Roman Empire).

All of these events attracted a huge amount of gambling. It was during these ancient events that the whole concept of sports betting was born. Well, at least it became known among the populace. Of course, it remained pretty much the sole domain of the rich until the 19th century (when horse racing became popular in the UK, and the poor people finally had enough cash to bet with), it was the event where the whole concept of sports betting started.

We suppose the modern Olympic Games are helping to shape the world of gambling, too. A lot of events that take place during the Olympic Games get hardly any representation in the four years prior. A lot of sportsbooks also understandt that there are some minor events that people seem to enjoy gambling on, and they try to introduce them to their sportsbook repertoires.

Kentucky Derby, unknown date Permission to use these Kentucky images is provided, free of charge, with the intent of promoting Kentucky as a travel destination. All published images should be credited, “Courtesy: Kentuckytourism.com”.
Kentucky Derby, unknown date Permission to use these Kentucky images is provided, free of charge, with the intent of promoting Kentucky as a travel destination. All published images should be credited, “Courtesy: Kentuckytourism.com”.

The Grand National & The Kentucky Derby

Horse racing is one of the few sporting events that thrives on gambling. The whole industry is built upon it. The whole reason sports betting is so popular nowadays is the people who bet on horse racing in the 19th century.

Now, there are hundreds of races being run around the world every single day. However, the two races that attract more cash than any other (and ones that will be heavily promoted by gambling companies) are The Grand National in the UK and the Kentucky Derby in the USA. Dozens of horses compete in each race, people who rarely ever gamble will have a flutter on them, and these events can often throw up a few surprises.

When either of these events roll around, you can bet your bottom dollar that top sportsbooks will be trying to get you to gamble there (plus, some of the bad sportsbooks too, we guess). So, make sure that you choose a sportsbook that is good. Read through reviews—it’ll help.

Ali vs. Frazier in El Grafico
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain of Ali vs. Frazier in El Grafico Magazine (Venezuelan - 1974).

The Fight of the Century

Remember how we said many industries have been built up purely around gambling? Well, if you were around in 1971 then you would have seen firsthand how true this was. Frazier vs. Ali. One of, if not the, fights of the century. It was the only time two undefeated boxers fought each other for the heavyweight championship.

While these two were no longer fighting in their prime, they were able to put a fantastic battle up until the 15th round. People who watched certainly got their money’s worth, and the sports betting companies made bank on the event. Nowadays, this is why so much cash is thrown into boxing events. People just love to bet on them.

So, who won? Well, Frazier. He knocked down Ali in the 14th round and won on points.

FIFA World cup
Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons in the public domain of FIFA World Cup

FIFA World Cup

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, so it only makes sense that the FIFA World Cup is the most-gambled major sporting event (yes, sorry, it beats the Super Bowl). Started in 1930, it runs every four years, and trust us, when the FIFA World Cup rolls around, the sports betting companies go crazy.

The number of games in the FIFA World Cup varies (the format does change with a little bit of frequency), but all the big titans go head-to-head in the hope of walking away as World Champions. There are plenty of bets to be made too, including individual matches, futures, prop bets, Golden Boot (highest goal scorer), Golden Gloves (best goalkeeper), and more.

The event is starting to become even more popular in the US, too. With the next FIFA World Cup happening in the US (and Mexico and Canada), this is sure to be an event that will have a massive impact on the gambling industry in the country. It’ll be one of the first World Cups in the USA where the vast majority of states will have legalized online betting.

This means that you can expect more legal bets to be placed than ever before. Depending on how it goes, we can expect the American gambling companies to place a bigger focus on the FIFA World Cup than any other event they’ve focused on before.

Counter-Strike: Global OffensiveEvents

In recent years, we’ve seen a massive change in the gambling industry. In the past, sportsbooks focused on what most people would term “actual sports”. You know, the ones that would require some sort of physical movement—sports that have been kicking around for a while. However, that all changed when Counter-Stike: Global Offensive appeared on the scene—a video game.

eSports events have been around for a good couple of decades now. However, many e-sports events were quite small. They had their fans, but they weren’t exactly attracting mass appeal. You certainly couldn’t bet on them. This all changed when Counter-Strike: Global Offensivestarted to gain a bit of mass-market appeal as an eSport.

Companies were investing millions of dollars into CS:GO tournaments. Prizes were hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars. The game wasn’t too shabby to watch either.

When the sports betting industry started to realize that a lotof people wanted to gamble on CS:GO, many of them started to introduce e-sports to their potential events to gamble on. Nowadays, the vast majority of sportsbooks that you encounter will have e-sports events available. Some may only have them appear when the major tournaments are running, while others will cover the smaller tournaments too.

The introduction of e-sports to many online sportsbooks has brought more people into the gambling industry, i.e. those who wouldn’t normally be watching traditional sports.

1957 North Carolina Tar Heels Men's Basketball team photo
Photo sourced at Wikimedia Commons in the public domain of the 1957 North Carolina Tar Heels Men's Basketball team photo

March Madness

March Madness, typically only followed in the US, is the college basketball event of the year. Head to Vegas and hotels will run March Madness parties (which you have to book in advance because they’re so popular), online and physical sportsbooks will have all sorts of promotions hoping to grab a chunk of the tens of millions of dollars gambled on March Madness, and people will be rooted to their TV screens for almost a month hoping that their favorite (or whoever they bet on), wins the event.

It is events like March Madness that have helped to drive the sports betting industry forward in the United States. And it is events like this that have made sports betting almost the “event” in itself. Many of the people watching March Madness will have a bet on it and, to them, it makes everything a lot more exciting.

Of course, there are plenty of other events that could have been touched on here. For example, the Women’s World Cup has shown online sportsbooks that women’s events are worth showcasing.

There are plenty of boxing events throughout the year (including some “oldies”, such as Mike Tyson coming back for one last battle). Every one of them is helping the sports betting industry evolve a little bit more, and since online sports betting in the US is fairly new, there’s a lot to evolve too. As more people discover online gambling, expect the industry to change even further. Keep an eye out for major events that get promoted.

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