The History of Football and Sports Betting


Sports betting has a long history that dates back to ancient civilizations. Some historians believe that sports betting was even bigger than it is today. Though, with the ever-growing list of best betting sites in Nigeria, there seems to be a resurgence.

Sports Betting

The history of sports betting

Many people view sports and betting as two different activities. In truth, sport very rarely exists in isolation without betting, unless it’s enforced by anti-gambling laws. When left to their own devices, humans very quickly paired the two together.

In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were the biggest sporting event of the year. So, well over 2,000 years ago was a sporting event that attracted betting, too. It was thought that the bets added more buzz and excitement around the outcome, and it involved the crowd to some extent, where they could choose their favourite athletes and win prizes.

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Sports betting became even more popular as the Roman Empire rose to power. The gladiatorial games that the Romans indulged in were brutal contests, and the likes of Augustus were very fond of placing bets – so it wasn’t just reserved for the public.

If we fast forward to the Middle Ages, then England carried on the sports betting torch. Horse racing was hugely popular, and still is today. Betting on horses was common for centuries in the UK, until eventually cricket and other sports become popularised and those began to receive bets too.

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It was in the 18th century that sports betting became fully globalised. National sports leagues were being created in the 19th century, so the likes of baseball in the US and football in Europe became very popular with regular betting.

In and amongst this time of betting becoming popular, there were many pushbacks. Most countries began introducing laws and restrictions in one form or another – many countries outright banned gambling altogether. In Nigeria, it was in 1990 that the government reversed these laws and made lotteries, casino games, and sports betting legal again. Eventually, in 2009, Nigerian regulatory bodies began granting licenses, and this is a similar story to many countries around the world.

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Football betting

Football is the most commonly bet on sport in the world. There’s no surprise there because it’s by far the most popular sport in the world, with billions of viewers. Whilst football isn’t as closely tied to betting as the likes of horse racing, it is becoming more so. Sports betting sites are using the huge viewerships of football to place adverts around betting on football.

And, the rise of online betting – driven by convenience, technology, and marketing progress – has coincided with the growth in globalised football viewership. It’s never been easier to watch overseas games of football, of which the Premier League’s popularity in countries as far away as China shows.

Furthermore, football became the obvious sport to bet on because of how often it’s played. Whilst it feels like way more people bet on the Grand National horse race (in terms of per capita of viewership), it only happens once a year. With football, there is a game on right now. On any given day, there will be games on, meaning the betting markets are vast.

Finally, sports betting companies themselves have become globalised. Many South Africans will use betting sites from abroad, for example, and therefore this has meant betting markets too are more globalised.

Sports betting in South Africa

For many years in the 19th century, horse racing was the only sport that was legal to bet on in South Africa. In the early 20th century, legislation began to change. The Racing and Betting Act of 1965 meant that it was now legal to have licensed betting shops. Within these, sports betting would take place.

Today, sports betting is a major industry in South Africa. It saw less legal pushback than many of its neighbouring countries, meaning that it had the space to grow. In fact, many people around Africa use South African sports betting sites as a result.

The growth of sports betting was similar in South Africa to Europe. National football leagues became increasingly popular at a similar time to the 1965 changes in law. And, since then, much of the popularity (particularly in football betting in South Africa) has been driven by technology, marketing, and convenience.

Ion particular, it is the mobile phone that has meant accelerated South Africa’s betting industry. Until 10-15 years ago, the public had to make their way to a physical betting shop. Inside would often not be the nicest environment (though some inevitably enjoyed the social aspect), and the bets would take place over the counter. Today, bets are taking place from people’s own homes, when they’re at work, or when travelling. In just a few seconds, deposits and bets can be made.


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