From basement to big business – The evolution of online sports betting

Sports betting is a catch-all term used to describe various betting activities including horse race betting, Greyhound racing as well as betting on all sorts of sports from NFL and NBA, through to MMA and just about anything that takes your fancy.

Depending on where you find yourself in the world, you can visit a myriad of brick and mortar betting shops to get prices on the latest sporting events and, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, get in on the money action in real time with online casino sportsbooks.

Of course, nowadays, most punters take their action via the web, through state of the art online sports betting sites like Bet365, William Hill, Betfair, XBet and hundreds of others. Betting on sports online like NBA odds has become the number one trend across the globe, with more and more sports fans who had previously never thought about betting on games, finding out just how easy it is to place a bet online.

Perhaps what is even more remarkable about online sports betting is just how far it has come in a relatively short space of time. The internet became a working reality back in 1990 after Tim Berners-Lee introduced the world to the mind-blowing reality of the World Wide Web. The first online casinos began to appear on the web in around 1994, powered by the software of online gambling software pioneer, Microgaming. However, it was largely thanks to the efforts of another software pioneer in Cryptologic, that the first safe online transaction could take place. This made it possible for gamblers to actually deposit and withdraw money from these fledgling digital casinos.

The Old World Goes Online

As far as sports betting is concerned, Intertops claims to be the web’s very first online sports betting option, launched in 1996, with Australian Centrebet going online in 1998. More sportsbooks migrated to an online presence in the following years, with many of the oldest sportsbooks in the world, including William Hill, BetVictor, Ladbrokes and Coral. This list of well-established sports betting concerns represents the oldest bookies in the UK, with Ladbrokes roots stretching back all the way to the late 1800’s.

With financial muscle gleaned from years of bookie services, particularly at racetracks throughout the UK, as well as betting shops (albeit somewhat later in the 1960’s), these old world sportsbooks soon dominated the online sports betting sphere. Ladbrokes (now Ladbrokes Coral) declared a turnover of £1,507.9 million in 2016, while William Hill’s net income for 2017 stood at around £83 million with total revenue generated of £1.7 billion and a global staff contingent of 16,000.

Physical betting shops still make up a large percentage of income for these bookmaking giants, with around 9000 betting shops dotted throughout the UK and Europe. Punters have the choice to visit any of the big names including William Hill, Ladbrokes or Coral. Cutting edge technology however has allowed for a far greater merger between the physical betting option and the digital, with smartphone apps that update prices and events in real time, even when a punter is physically in the betting shop.

New Blood Brings New Business

The internet is an ever-expanding universe, with thousands of new ideas, new ventures and new digital startups launching every day. Unlike many real world locations and scenarios, there is still plenty of space available for new business, or even competing business, within the virtual realms. This is most certainly true for sports betting, as more and more young brands have set up shop over the past few years.

Many of these new upstarts in both casinos and sportsbooks have directly challenged the old guard bookies for a larger and more significant share of the online sports betting market. One such remarkable brand is Bet365 which, when compared to the likes of Ladbrokes and BetVictor, can only claim a history that dates back to the year 2000.

However, one thing that Bet365 does have is humble beginnings. Like many of the most successful sports betting brands operating today, Bet365 started out as a small concern, run by a father and daughter duo John and Denise Coates. In fact, the idea behind Bet365 began with Denise Coates in a portakabin (similar to a trailer or container office). The entrepreneur set up a sports betting platform, along with a strong and well-versed trading team, prior to launching officially in March of 2001.

While the online venture was a new thing for the Coats clan, Peter Coates, the father, had already established a few betting shops, with the first betting shop dating back to 1974. While perhaps not as prominent as Ladbrokes or William Hill’s chain of betting shops, they were nevertheless well established and successful enough to be able to back the new venture via a secured £15 million loan through RBS. This was enough to get the operation into top gear and Bet365 subsequently sold its chain of betting shops to Coral to the tune of £40 million, allowing them to pay back their debt to RBS in one fell swoop.

Remarkably, Bet365 today is able to go head to head with any and all of the most established online sportsbooks, including the likes of Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill and others. Bet365 posted revenue figures on £2.3 billion in 2017 and currently employs around 3500 personnel, including sports betting experts in every major sports betting field. Despite its relatively short history of less than two decades, Bet365 has done phenomenally well for itself, pushing their brand presence and profile into the mainstream sports watching and, more importantly, sports betting conscience.

With brand ambassadors like Samuel L. Jackson, major football club sponsorships throughout Europe, and some of the biggest coverage of international horseracing, Bet365 is the model on how to go from basement to big business in record time. Aside from their own remarkable achievements, Bet365 has blazed the trail for many other sports betting brands to follow and, with the recent overturning of PASPA in the US, could be the ideal guideline for new US-based sportsbooks to follow.