The Birth of Online Sportsbooks


Online sports betting dates back to 1994 when Antigua and Barbuda passed the Free Trade and Processing Zone Act, which allowed companies to apply for offshore licenses to operate online betting websites.

The first online sportsbook launched was Intertops in 1996. Intertops still operates today, although they're no longer as popular as they once were and that's in large part to them being forced out of unregulated markets, such as the USA.

It didn't take long for sports betting to become popular in America. By 1996, over $60 million had been wagered by US punters with online bookies. By 2009, Americans had wagered more than $50 billion, despite being unregulated.

While the UK is regarded as the most advanced online gambling market, the first UK company (William Hill) launched online sports betting in 1998, two years after Intertops. 1998 was a big year in the industry, as revenues topped $830 million according to a report by Frost and Sullivan – a global consulting firm.

With online gambling revenues soaring, bookmaker Blue Square opened up a doomsday market offering 500/1 odds that all land-based betting shops would be closed within 10 years. Hopefully none of you placed a bet, as even today (2016) there are still a lot of land-based bookmakers operating around the world.

It wasn't until 2000 when Ladbrokes and Betfair launched. Both brands are huge today, but they were a bit late to the party. Here's an interesting fact we noticed on "The Rise of Online Betting" infographic at LatestBettingSites.co.uk - Betfair only accepted a total of 36 bets during their first day of operations. Check the whole timeline out here.

Today, everyone had heard of the brand Paddy Power, but they didn't launch until 2004. The Irish company is famous for offering a wide selection of novelty bets that you won't find anywhere else.

In 2006, the US government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which forced most companies to exit the US market. However, even to this day, there are still a lot of smaller brands operating offshore sportsbooks and accepting American bettors. Although, it's not as easy to bet nowadays as it once was.

To help you understand how much people enjoy betting, let this sink in. In 2012, punters wagered $2.4 million on the sex, name, weight and hair colour of the royal baby. Novelty markets can attract big bets from punters.

In the same year, Statista estimated that the online sports betting market is worth upwards of $74 billion.

In recent years, a lot of the growth in the industry has been thanks to innovation. For example, in 2013, YouBetMe was launched. YouBetMe is a social betting app where users wager against each other instead of against the house.

In 2014, BetVIP launched to much fanfare in the Bitcoin space. BetVIP was the first licensed Bitcoin-only sportsbook to launch. Bitcoin continues to remain popular among bettors in unregulated markets.

Online sports betting is expected to continue growing. Statistica estimates that the online gambling market could be worth upwards of $56.7 billion by 2018, which for comparisions sake is the same as Costa Rica's GDP.

Sports betting is popular in most countries around the world and the industry will likely only grow from here, as more countries begin regulating online gambling. There are huge opportunities in the industry to make a lot of money, but you need to differenciate your product or service from what's already available in the market.

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