The history of sport betting surely goes back to when sports themselves started as way of proving prowess. Betting on sports is perhaps as old as the various games themselves.
Thousands of years before the birth of Christ the Chinese were known to have bet on races between different animals as well as people. The Greeks love of sport in the original Olympic games would have course have been supplemented with extensive betting by Greek nobles.
The Romans of course took things to extremes with gladiatorial contests between humans and animals in fights to the death and what better way for the Roman spectator to be involved than by placing a bet on the winner.
More civilised contests emerged again in medieval Europe with jousting, sword fighting and archery competitions as well as horse racing.
But it was with the shift to more organised sports in the 19th and 20th centuries that sport betting on a much larger scale.
Highly organised horse racing and football leagues were established in England with recognised venues and regular popular sporting events. In the USA, athletics, horse racing and baseball become very popular with large crowds gathering to both watch and place bets.
However, in the early days sports betting was still difficult and largely unfavourable to those placing bets. The odds punters were offered were poor and often rigged prompting many governments to crack down on the practice. This, though led to sport betting going underground, often run be gangsters and crooks.
With the introduction of fairer bets being offered by bookmakers and governments relenting on their total bans, legalisation of bookmaking began to take place creating a more favourable market for the punter.
The invention of television and the popularity of televised sports really saw sports betting really take off in the 1960s as people could now place bets with reputable bookmakers and then watch the action from the comfort of their own homes. Not only did TV popularise the sports themselves but also this increased popularity led to greater betting on the events covered.
The advent of the internet in the 1990s has given sports betting an even bigger boost.