26 February 2015

Wanna bet?

Sports gambling, or ‘betting’, is a fun way of combining watching sports and making a little money on the side. One could compare betting to investing since it’s all about risking a certain amount of one’s own money on something one has no control over (when played fair) in the hopes of gaining a sizeable profit. That only few can escape the siren’s song of a good wager is proven by the fact that betting is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide. Regulated betting accounted for $58 billion (or around 14%) of $430 billion in total global gross gambling yield in 2012 and is forecast to reach $70 billion in 2016. Millions of people place bets every day on a wide variety of sports events around the world; horse racing, soccer, football, the Olympics, you can even bet on camel racing if you were so inclined.

Then & now

It is almost impossible to determine the time and place when and where betting was ‘invented’. Proof of gambling and other games of chance being played has been found around the world. Some are older than others, but it is quite safe to say that gambling has been around as long as people have been. In today’s Northern Iraq, then Mesopotamia, the first six-sided dice were found, which are believed to be over 5,000 years old. In China, researchers found proof of a gambling emperor: almost 5,000 years ago the emperor made up a board game, which allowed people to bet on various outcomes. In ancient Greece, people were betting on classic tests of skill and speed like wrestling and foot races. In more recent history, in the Middle Eastern deserts, nomads and nobles were betting on horse racing. When the first trading routes opened up between Europe and the Middle East, European royalty soon spotted these competitions and became keenly interested. The European elite then started acquiring their own desert-bred racing Arabians (which later became the most popular modern horse racing breed: thoroughbreds) and began track racing, a sport that attracts many spectators – and gamblers – to this day.

Sports books

Back in the olden days, most bets were simple matters, wagers between friends and acquaintances. They were ungoverned and the stakes were often low. This all ended when the first organised gambling halls started to appear in Europe in the late 16th century. It is hard to find information about these earlier betting shops, since they kept a low profile, because betting was only legalised in Europe in 1961. But rest assured they were there, just out of sight. In the US, the legalisation of gambling in Nevada in 1931 set the stage for a large number of betting opportunities and paved the way for modern day Las Vegas. Other states followed, betting shops started popping up like mushrooms, and even other ‘casino towns’ like Atlantic City gained momentum. Originally, the betting shops – or sports books – offered relatively traditional and limited options for betting. Then, in the 1940s, pioneer William Hill started accepting all kind of unusual bets like someone’s time of death or wagers on the name or birthday of a newborn. It was the beginning of a long history of increasingly weird bets.

Internet betting

In the late 1990s, bookmakers, or bookies, started to open up online betting shops and there was almost no limit to what people could bet on or on the amount of money they bet. Today, you can bet on almost anything, from when alien life will be proven to who will play Edward Snowden in the movie and everything in between. You can enjoy complete anonymity by placing bets from the privacy of your own home on a PC, but also on the go on your mobile device. Of course, you can also choose the more traditional route and go to your local bookmaker. This is slightly less anonymous, but also very effective and more hands-on. Betting has never been more accessible and everybody wants a slice of the pie.


Unfortunately, with organised betting came organised betting crimes. Teams have lost victories and/or titles as a result of the organised fixing of games and events and some professional athletes have been found to fix the outcome of sporting events and have been fined or even banned for their involvement in betting schemes. For example, let’s take a look at the Dutch soccer club Willem II and the recent accusations of match fixing*. Some (former) Willem II players have been accused of collecting over €100,000 per match from Singapore based match fixers to lose in order for the match fixers to gain a large profit by betting on those games. Sadly, this is only one of the many, many examples there are about betting associated fraud.

Paying & playing

There are multiple ways of depositing funds for online betting and collecting winnings. Traditionally, credit cards were used to transfer funds into an online betting account. However, since credit cards are prone to fraudulent activities, transactions are never completely anonymous and it is harder to keep track of how much one spends, alternative payment methods gained popularity over the last couple of years. Pre-paid cards, vouchers and bank wires are all good examples of alternative payment methods, but in betting e-wallets are the most used online payment form.

When it comes to collecting winnings, the rule of thumb is that payouts follow the same route as deposits, but in the opposite direction. When one deposits money using an alternative payment method, any winnings will be paid out through the same alternative payment method, if that payment method allows the deposit of funds back to the consumer. For credit cards it works the same way. When depositing funds through Visa, you will obtain your winnings through initiating Visa’s Original Credit Transaction (OCT – funds get ‘pushed’ into one’s account). When depositing funds through MasterCard or Maestro, you can only collect your winnings by initiating a Payment Transaction (PT – a transaction that transfers funds to an account).

Play responsibly

Betting can be fun and you can also win some serious money, but it is important to keep in mind that it is a form of gambling. You should always gamble wisely and only with money you can spare. There are many variables involved in betting, which makes it very important to know what you are doing and to spend time studying the possibilities and match trends. For many people this is the best part of betting; being deeply immersed in the details of the sport they love and making money while doing it. Even though the future is always unsure, it’s safe to say that sports and betting will forever be intertwined.

*At the time of publication, the investigation is still on going. All accused Willem II players are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.