Early Sports Betting
Betting on sports has been occurring in America, and indeed all over the world, since the idea of sport was conceived. Betting on the outcome of sporting events in America did not even begin with the arrival of Europeans; American Indians were taking bets on different sports for hundreds of years. Research into the Incan and Mayan empires of South America indicates that the massive sporting events that took place in the cities of the empires included huge wagers passed at all economic levels, from peasants right up to the emperor.
Modern-day American sports betting is based on the concepts brought over from the old country. Betting was and is considered a gentleman’s past time in Britain and many other European countries such as Italy. Although organized sports leagues did not begin to appear anywhere until the late 19th century, wagering was popular on college sports such as boxing, rugby, and cricket.
The rise of organized betting began with the popularity of horse racing. Horse racing began as a past time for the upper classes of both the United States and Europe, and with a lot of money and little to spend it on the wealthy began to place wagers on the outcome of horse races for additional excitement. The hobby soon caught on, and soon people of all classes would place bets with bookies for a certain horse to win a race, whether it was for fun or a desperate attempt to make some money.
The organization of professional sports leagues was revolutionary in the history of gambling in sports. Baseball was among the first leagues to organize, and on the timeline it did so around the apex in the popularity of horse racing. Horse racing peaked during the roaring twenties, and leagues involving sports like baseball and football became popular as they showcased sports that any man could play. Bookmakers were quick to take advantage of this opportunity.
The original way to bet on sports teams and leagues (which also began to include college sports) was through a card system. This system was the forebear of the current parlay team, and posed impossible odds for winning (ten teams on the card, with ties going to the bookmaker). Despite the improbability of a win, however, betting on sports became increasingly popular as people saw a chance to make a huge profit.
When the popularity of sports cards started to wear off, bookmakers began to increase the odds on the chance that a bettor would beat the odds. New kinds of gambling also began to crop up; the bookies began taking more practical bets (from the bettors standpoint) on the outcome of games such as soccer and boxing matches, as well as offering spreads to make betting more appealing in games like football and basketball.Today, sports gambling involves all of the major developments of history. There are even sports in which betting is legal. Sports cards are now known as parlays, and the payoff in case of a win is much greater. Gambling on sports events is more popular than ever, although the history of gambling in sports includes many instances of legislative bodies vilifying and trying to halt betting practices.