History of online sports betting
November 09, 2016 11:33 AM
by David Cash
The birth of online sports betting wasn't too long ago. It all started in 1994 when Antigua and Barbuda passed the "Free Trade and Processing Zone Act", which allowed betting operators to obtain an offshore gambling license.
At this point in time the Internet was still in its early stages in terms of mainstream adoption. It took a couple years, but the first online sportsbook to open up shop was Intertops – a brand that's still operating today.
Here's an interesting little fact you likely didn't know. The first online sports wager was made by a Finnish punter at Intertops. He bet on a football match between Tottenham v Hereford United.
It didn't take long for the public to start wagering big online. In the same year that Intertops opened, Americans had already wagered $60 million online. Back in the early days American handicappers didn't face any restrictions.
William Hill became the first UK bookmaker to launch online in 1998. William Hill is now among the biggest brands in the betting industry in many parts of the world, including the UK, Europe, United States and Canada.
Growth was extremely rampant during the early days of online betting. Online gambling revenue exceeded $830 million by 1998. More companies continued jumping into the market at a rapid pace.
In 2000, Ladbrokes and Betfair both launched online bookmakers. Betfair became the first betting exchange and they remain the most popular exchange today, although revenues are down due to regulation.
Here's a cool fact that will be remembered throughout the history of gambling sites. Betfair only accepted a total of 36 bets during their first day of operating, but now the company makes millions of profits annually.
We've seen a lot of innovation over the years as well. Sporting Index released "Bet on the Move" in 2003, which was the first betting app in the UK. Today nearly every single bookmaker is mobile-friendly or offers a native iOS/Android app.
The year 2006 was a huge year in the online betting industry and the industry still hasn't recovered. In 2006, the US government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This forced a lot of US bookies out of business and the majority of UK/European bookies exited the market.
The US online gambling industry is still unregulated and it has made it tough on Americans. There are still a lot of great betting sites that accept Americans, but sending and receiving payments is tough. You can't simply use your Paypal account because of the UIGEA. However, there's hope the industry could be regulated soon.
Despite the US online betting market being unregulated, Americans wagered over $50 billion by 2009. That number continues to climb every year and if the industry ever becomes regulated, revenues would increase tremendously.
Bookmakers are constantly looking for the next big thing. In 2015, Betway became the first bookmaker to launch a microsite dedicated to eSports. eSports has become a huge market and is still growing fast. While there are some concerns about match-fixing, that's unlikely to stop eSports fans from betting on their favorite teams.
The first online sportsbook only launched twenty years ago, but the market is still growing around the world. Statistica estimates that the entire industry will be worth $56.7 billion in just two short years. You now know the brief history of online sports betting, but the history books are still being written today.
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