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All Hail the Premier League – The Rise and Rise of Football Betting

The 17/18 Premier League season kicks off this weekend, completing the return of domestic football in the UK and the beginning of massive bookmaker liabilities across the football betting markets.

In an era where many land-based businesses and industries are still struggling to fully adjust to the new digital age, the gaming space certainly isn’t, in fact it is thriving.

The convenience of sports betting due to advancements in technology is clear to see. In regulated markets such as the UK, there is not a time nor a place where you can’t get a cheeky punt on, thanks to the rise in mobile betting technology.

In a recent survey carried out by the UK Gambling Commission it was revealed that 50% of 25-34 year olds have used a mobile or tablet device to gamble online.

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A Brief History of Football Betting

It’s hard to imagine a world without football betting given how influential and popular it has become in modern day society – especially when you consider how it plays such an important role in the sponsorship of sport. However, football betting is a fairly modern concept all things considered.

Before the 1960s, football betting was illegal and you’d only find it as an underground activity on the streets. The closest alternative was the football pools which was introduced by Littlewoods in 1923 outside Old Trafford. Although football pools still exist today, they are perhaps not as popular and certainly a world away from the volume of markets pushed to the punter during the Premier League season.

The first major step for football betting and the sports betting industry in general was the introduction of the 1960 Betting & Gaming Act which legalised gambling. After this high-street bookmakers were popping up all over the country, including many of the big name brands we know and use today such as William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral.

In the early days, despite gambling being legalised, the rules enforced were still fairly strict on football betting. You were only able to bet on a game which was being televised and in an age where there were only a small number of TV channels this meant only major football matches and competitions were shown, so the opportunity to bet on football was strictly limited. This all changed of course when Sky Sports acquired the rights to televise Premier League matches in 1992. Now more games than ever were being screened and there were multiple opportunities to gamble on matches every weekend.

The next leap forward was with the proliferation of the internet at the end of the 90s which prompted the formation of online-only operators that could bring new innovations to the market such as Betfair with the first peer to peer exchange and Bet365 who have taken in-play to a new level. A whole host of new markets to bet on were now offered on football, such as the number of yellow cards, corners and throw ins. You could now bet on a game from the comfort of your sofa.

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Football Betting Today

For the majority of the history of legalised sports betting in the UK horse racing has dominated. This was particularly prevalent before the days of mobile and online gambling where your only means of betting were through your high-street or on-course bookmakers.

At first horse racing betting had the highest number of online customers but since the introduction of ‘In Play’ betting, football has jumped to the top of the leader board. In fact, football betting now dominates. The UK betting industry made a staggering £580.5 million in profit through wagers placed on football related events online between 2015-2016. Football betting now holds the biggest slice of the sports betting pie with an overwhelming 37% of all online bets being placed on football. Horse racing came in second place taking 22% of the market and £345.75 million in profit.

The Premier League in particular is the most wagered upon league in football. On average operators offered 1,195 daily Premier League bets in Q2 2017. And with an average of 25,912 markets offered in football over a 7 day period, as a sport it is dwarfing the competition.

The Future of Betting on Football

The evolution of football betting has been some journey, from the days pre-1960 where the only legal form of football gambling was the pools, to how we know and enjoy football betting today with mobile devices allowing us easy access to markets on the move. Today’s bettor has more choice than ever before with opportunities such as In-Play betting and Cash Out allowing for added gaming dimensions.

With the Total Gross Gambling Yield for Great Britain standing at a staggering £12.6bn and football the most bet on sport in the industry today by some distance, the signs suggest the market is only set to expand yet further. With bookmakers dominating football sponsorship deals such as for shirt and stadium advertising, and new technology such as VARS potentially opening up even more partnership opportunities only the threat of regulatory interference could stall the continued rise in popularity of betting on the nation’s favourite sport.

Image Credits The West End Ben Sutherland

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