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The evolution of sports betting

Sports betting has been around for a long time. And while even earlier civilizations likely bet on some forms of competition, it was the ancient Greeks who cemented the relationship between sport and wagers with the development of the Olympic Games. Records are a bit shaky, but historical artifacts appear to show Olympic spectators betting on everything from running and chariot races to wrestling and pankration, an ancient form of boxing.

After the ancient Greeks is where things really start getting interesting. Over the centuries, as sports and wagering evolved to develop the mechanics we’re now familiar with—over and unders, parlays, odds, etc.—opportunities have opened to allow for bets on virtually any sport, decision or activity.


Like cheese? Then you’ll love cheese-rolling, a “sport” that sees competitors chase after 9 lb wheels of cheese, rolled down a hill at speeds of up to 110 km/h. The action takes place at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, England with wagers taken by London’s world-famous bookmakers.

Man vs. Horse

Like many notable human endeavours, the idea for the Man vs. Horse race was dreamed up in a pub. The year was 1980. Locals at the Neuadd Arms, a watering hole in Llanwrtyd in Powys, Wales, argued over who would win a long-distance race—man or horse? Bets have been placed on this race going on 40 years now, with a human beating the horse only twice.


Some people might enjoy a good book when they hit the beach, but high-stakes surf fans prefer a solid bookie. At major surfing events like the Rip Curl Pro or Billabong Pipemasters, the overs and unders of surfing legends take the sport of wave riding up a serious notch. Suntanned bookmakers take wagers on which surfer will outride the competition in their next heat or full event. Radical brah!

Royal Baby Naming

You might not fancy name-predicting as a sport, but when it comes to the British royal family, people sure bet on it like it is. Preferring the real world of Kings and Queens to those in a deck of cards, a woman in England won £18,120 by betting £120 with 150 to 1 odds that Harry and Meghan would name their baby Archie. She must’ve been right chuffed!

From the height of ancient athletics to cheese and babies…the principles of sports betting have evolved to take on a life of their own. It’s not much surprise, placing wagers can be fun, exciting and practically a sport in itself.

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