David Williams | 11 Dec 2012
Many people are surprised to learn that sports betting is Earth’s oldest form of gambling. The subject of sports betting becomes even more interesting when we stop to realize that it has evolved from human body participation and the use of hands during card games to the usage of a fingertip for cursor direction.
Long before Greece entered the sports betting picture, research reveals that sports betting and bet shops actually originated in China, circa 1,000 BC. Although the first competitions are believed to have stemmed from wagers upon which of two wild animals would survive an attack, the Chinese are credited with the first dog and horse races. Wagers taken at specified locations referred to as dens appear to be an early form of betting shops as we know them today.
Home to the Olympic games, Greece is deemed to be the scene of the earliest sports betting events involving human contact. Although modern day Olympic games take place around the globe, require human body participation is still required in boxing, wrestling and discus events.
Rome’s gladiator battles appear to have been the earliest form of a sports betting business. Unlike the Olympic games, wagering on gladiator battles involved betting on which of two competitors would survive. An opinion expressed by Pliny the Elder “We are so much at the mercy of chance that Chance is our god” appears to have spanned the test of time since regardless of the format, chance is still the name of the game in sports betting.
While many consider the 21st century as the dawn of the move to declare sports betting an illegal activity, the first attempt to outlaw sports betting occurred during the Middle Ages when a ban was placed on cockfighting. The outgrowth of this cockfight ban was an upsurge in cockfight staging in secret locations. During the Middle Ages, a very popular sporting event was shin-kicking. In modern medical terminology, it could be described as a wager based upon the pain-toleration level possessed by each kicker.
Much credit for sports betting events in England belongs to King Richard II who challenged his countrymen to perfect their military combat skills through participation in archery and jousting competitions. During the reign of Richard II, a new sporting was introduced for the purpose of enriching the kings’ coffer. Known as Skull-ball, an early ancestor of rugby,these games opened a new avenue to the world of sports betting. Around late 18th and early 19th century England, placing bets on the time required to cover a specified distance in the least amount of time by walking, running or hopping emerged as a sports betting vehicle. In 1789, and Irishman won £20,000 at the end of a one-year walk to Constantinople. 1907 was the year that the first motor racing course in the world opened in Surrey, England.
In the words of a recent American gambling researcher, sports betting will continue as long as there are human being to place bets and events upon which to place them.