The bookies come flocking and soon there’s racecourse fever in the air as folk head to the grandstands to bet on the ponies.
It’s the middle of the 20th century and the country is enjoying a widespread passion for sport. And what sport more suitable for the midweek afternoon than horse racing?
The ponies are dashing around the course as the jockeys watch on in excitement. There’s certainly something quintessentially English about a racecourse – the long shadows, the drizzle, the banter – but there’s also something uniquely Australian about the game too. It’s a bit of an eclectic mix.
And then, right in the middle of the paddock, the betting parlor moves into town. The ponies can’t help but be affected and before long there’s a mad flurry of hoofs before they’re separated by the steward and the winning rider. It’s disruption to the status quo and nobody, least of all the sport’s governing bodies, seems quite certain what will happen next.
As you might expect, this sort of thing generates a healthy appetite for betting on the games (or competitions as they’re more commonly known today). And so the growth of greyhound and horseracing betting has led to a boom in the number of betting shops across the country. But that’s not all there is to this story. In fact, it might not even be the most interesting part.
Wherever there’s a betting shop, you’ll inevitably find an off-course bookmaker who specialises in exotic sports. And it’s not just within Australia either as offshore gambling resorts such as the UK’s Gibraltar and the United States’ Isle of Man are hot-spots for betting on horse racing too. In fact, the 2010 film The King’s Speech featured a prominent role for the game (and a rather surprising performance from Colin Firth).
Horse racing is one of the most popular sports around the world and it continues to grow in participation each year. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio saw an unprecedented 24 nations take part in the equestrian events with China and the United States dominating the show jumping and dressage (respectively). There is certainly scope for betting on the games as participants can lose over a million dollars if they finish outside the top three in either sport. And it’s not just the large sums of money at stake that make these events interesting for gamblers – there’s also the fact that the sportsmanship is something to be admired. Spectators root for their favorite horse or dog to win and there’s certainly a sense that the sport is more about the passion of the participants than the fortunes of the betting shop.
The Growth Of Sports Betting
And so we return to the question of what happens when a betting parlor moves into town. It’s a common occurrence and there’s actually a whole sub-sector of the Australian bookmaking industry that bills itself as, ‘the Asianization of Sports Betting’.
According to the Sports Betting & Gaming Association, there are currently 2,500 legal sportsbooks in Australia, representing a 10% increase from 2015. And that doesn’t even include the hundreds of illegal bookmakers who operate outside of the country’s regulations. Australia is a well-known venue for sports betting even if it is illegal, with many sports fans using offshore websites to place bets. Access to this content is restricted though, meaning that most Australians must either place bets in person or via an online service that operates within our borders.
The surge in popularity of sports betting is being driven by a combination of factors. The growth of internet access and social media has enabled fans to follow games even when they aren’t live. The boom in smartphone usage has made it easier for people to get content when they want it, regardless of where they are. The legalisation of betting on sports in Australia has also made it easier for individuals to place bets, as the country’s bookmaking industry is now restricted to specific locations and only accepts legal bets from Australian residents.
Considering the above, it’s clear that the future of sports betting is looking rather bright. Especially since the sector is experiencing something of a golden age as more and more people are discovering the benefits of placing bets, rather than just watching sports events.