When we think of betting on sports it is usually horse racing, football, and other popular sports that come to mind. But wherever there are games, there is betting on the outcome, regardless of the game.
Petanque (pronounced “pay-tahn-k”), nearly unheard of outside Francophone countries and played even less, is rarely mentioned even in French gambling news, not to mention international coverage.
Though created as a sport in 1910, its roots can be traced back to medieval times.
The game’s rules could not be any simpler: either individual contestants or teams of 2 or 3 players compete against each other. A small, brightly colored wooden ball (“jack”) is thrown into a large circle on the ground and the players must throw their larger metal balls (“boules”) as close to the small ball as they can. The closest throw gets a point and the first team to earn 13 points wins the game.
This simplicity and the minimal infrastructure requirements make the game a popular pastime in France, as well as in countries previously under French governance, such as Vietnam. Naturally, the game also has some limited presence in other countries around the world, including the UK and the US.
Petanque is not a sport that is best suited for live media coverage due to the low prizes, infrequent national tournaments and limited potential audience. Amateur local competitions held by the thousands, therefore offer a more popular opportunity for betting, which is legal in some countries and illegal in others.
Since rules are simple, betting on petanque matches is also rather straightforward and generally focuses on predicting the winning team. Wherever it is legal to bet on sports, a few select companies offer petanque betting to their customers from time to time.
Betting is of course also offered where gambling laws prohibit it. For instance, large part of Vietnam’s criminal gambling income comes from betting on petanque, both online and offline. Not long ago the local police broke up an illicit gambling operation profiting millions of dollars on online gambling, including petanque.
Even where such betting is legal, though, it can lead to violent incidents. Some local tournaments in France had to be canceled over the years as petty criminals began entering the competitions, with their supporters bullying the opposing teams.