We take a look at some of the biggest events in the sporting calendar and see why they attract people who would not normally bet on sports.
Across the world there are a range of special events within sport that are more popular, more famous, more likely to attract wagers than other events, they’re big gambling news. This is mostly due to the atmosphere these events engender, creating instances within society where gambling is more socially acceptable than it is at any other time of the year.
This seemingly evident hypocrisy doesn’t stop lots of people who would not normally bet on a sports event do just that because the particular nature of the event. Traditional, historical and cultural significance all play a part in attracting these part-time gamblers but they raise the quantities of money involved by a massive amount.
It should also be noted that we only ever know about the legal gambling. Illegal gambling, that does so much damage to the industry, rarely turns in performance figures for us to analyze and estimates vary wildly depending on whom you ask. There is also the factors of diversity that have arisen with the growth of global internet betting that means arriving at true figures for the total wagered on an event all but impossible.
Online sportsbooks may it tricky to look at the overall picture but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a look at some of the events that attract this non-regular market and why they do. We might also have to look at the events people have been denied the right to bet upon and why, because there seems little sense to those rulings.
A Billion Bet On The World Cup
Famous sporting events people wager upon
• Which is bigger the Superbowl or the World cup?
• Will Happy Valley make gambling news?
• Do you have a flutter on the Grand National?
Perhaps the most famous event in the present consciousness is the World Cup which is just coming to a close in Brazil. With a world wide TV audience of over a billion, you can’t be surprised that the amount wagered on this event dwarfs pretty much all other sporting events. Estimates put the amount wagered on the 2010 world cup at well over a billion dollars with far more wagered and not recorded. The figures for this 2014 World Cup are likely to be higher, we’ll have to wait and see by how much.
Now obviously some of you more American readers will be aghast that soccer is so popular when you know only too well real football involves wearing tights and pads and helmets. For you the Superbowl is the zenith of the calendar and you wager nearly $100 million on it every year, which given the proportion of the world’s population that actually understand American Football is absolutely staggering, especially in light of US gambling laws.
US gambling laws are what we in the rest of the world call, a bit weird. Perhaps it’s the numerous sorts of betting, the wild variety of wagers possible, perhaps it’s the limits of location placed upon it or perhaps it’s because they’re so obviously made up as you go along. For instance in Vegas you can wager on any professional sport but not on amateur sports. Which sounds fine, except that’s not true at all.
In 2001 when Sen. John McCain attempted to remove college sports (all played by amateurs) from the gambling books in accordance with the law, the ensuing political horse trading left the amateur college ball players still the subject of gambling… but the Olympics were banned. So you can wager as much as you like on March Madness ($100 million on average) but not upon who’ll win the Marathon in Rio next time round. No, you’re not wrong, it doesn’t make any sense.
A Day At The Races
Horse sense is not widely seen amongst law makers but a sense of the horses seems to be one of those cultural throwbacks that we can’t quite shake off as a species. The lengthy history of horse racing as we know it dates from the 12th century and has always been the subject of gambling which is perhaps why these days it is so much more socially acceptable to bet on a famous horse race than on anything else.
The traditional element to these events mean that nearly everyone has some exposure to gambling upon them. Take the Grand National in the UK. It is all but impossible to reach middle age without having bet on it at some point. With friends, with the bookie, on the net. Each year Britons bet $300m on that single race, nearly twice as much as is ever placed on the Kentucky Derby.
The Cheltenham Festival, another UK race meeting, gathers even more with nearly $600 million bet on it which rivals even the Dubai classic, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and just about everything at Happy Valley put together. Horse racing might well be the sport of kings but these days it’s the money of the lower classes that raise the thrill of watching small men on large animals going fast.
These events that come but annually, or even less regularly, give the non-regular gambler a chance to participate in an atmosphere of conviviality that is not usually present in association with gambling and that is to be benefit of both the bookmakers and the sports because nothing creates interest in a sport more than having money riding on the result.
Read more of our guide to sports gambling.