The History of Bookmaking

Gambling has become a massive pastime in the United Kingdom and all around the world. Punters spend billions of pounds just on betting alone. This industry has created many jobs for a lot of people and a lot of entertainment for others. One of the most popular ways to gamble is sports betting.

You might think that gambling is a recent thing, but that’s not true at all. The first records of gambling can be found in ancient China, around 2300 BCE. They weren’t playing blackjack or betting on football back then; instead, they used tiles in a game of chance.

Since then, the world of gambling has grown and changed. Sports betting changed immensely when bookmakers came into play. A bookmaker provides odds for sporting events, which adds another element to punting. We’re going to go over the history of bookmaking from its origins to how we use it now.

First, What is a Bookmaker?

A bookmaker, also known as a “bookie,” is a company that gives odds on sporting events. The bookies use mathematics with previously tabulated statistics to create predictions about what’s going to happen in the game, which the odds provided represent.

The bookmakers then accept bets based on the odds they give out. The match or event plays out and depending on the outcome, and the bookies will have to pay the winners. The bookmakers create odds so they’ll always win, no matter the result.

The First Bookmaker

history of bookmakers

In the 1700s, the wealthy were mostly involved in horse betting or cockfighting, and the poor folks gambled on dice games amongst friends. In the 1790s, the way people bet on sports changed when the first bookie, Harry Ogden, started his business in the United Kingdom. Before Ogden, people were limited to betting on who would win, nothing more.

Harry Ogden spent a lot of his time at the horse track, specifically Newmarket Health in Suffolk County. He studied each horse and how they performed. With his studies, he realized that some were better than others consistently, even if they weren’t winning every race. This horse bettor started to record this, and then placed specific odds on how the horse would do.

Before the start of the game, he announced his odds and allowed people to place bets with him. Harry Ogden was wealthy enough to pay those who won because he created odds that were always going to be in his favour. Regardless of which horse won, he walked away with a profit every race.

From there, bookmakers expanded and changed how we bet on all sporting events, including horse racing.

Evolution of Bookmakers

Harry Ogden started bookmaking, but there’s a lot that happened from then until now. Many people after him provided their own odds and would go to certain race tracks for bettors.

1845 Gaming Act

As this was a new concept, there were no regulations or laws that ensured that the bookmakers were paying out correctly. This remained a problem until parliament controlled gambling with the 1845 Gaming Act.

This didn’t make betting illegal but discouraged it by stating that all bets weren’t enforceable as a legal contract. In a way, this indicated that bookies could steal punters’ money, and there was nothing the law could do about it.

1853 Betting Act

Then there was the 1853 Betting Act which didn’t make it illegal to gamble but restricted it to only at the track because so many people were making betting houses. However, this created a massive increase in gambling on the streets.

What it also did was create the love of a day at the horse track. During this time, the middle class was growing and could afford to gamble a little bit. Horse races started to open up all over the country, and the bookies kept becoming richer and richer.

1960 Betting and Gaming Act

In the 1960s, we saw the first brick and mortar bookies when 1960 Betting and Gaming Act was passed, which legalised betting shops. This dramatically changed the bookmaking industry because now they could take odds on more than just horse racing. The bookies were starting to create odds for football, rugby and cricket.

Many bookmakers were additions to casinos because if you like sports gambling, you’d probably enjoy a game of poker as well. Since the 1960s, many bookies have decided to expand this way or completely move out of horse tracks.

These bookmakers started introducing odds on more sports. Some even started to include betting on international sports as they expanded. A few of the most well-known bookies from this time are William Hill and Ladbrokes.

Technology and Bookmakers

Things were going well for bookies with the rise in popularity of sports betting for all people. However, problems started to emerge again when the internet came about. Bookmakers saw this as a perfect opportunity to get even more punters, not only from the U.K. but from all over the world.

Intertops was the first bookie to get online, with more brands starting soon after that. Before 2005, just about anyone could set up a website for sports betting and take bets from people all over the world. Punters were vulnerable to fraud or crime because there were no regulations regarding international bookies.

The 2005 Gambling Act started to protect British punters and focused on creating honest bookies online. Besides, the government established the Gambling Commission. It provided licenses for online betting sites that operated legitimately. Regardless of where the bookie site is based, if it wants U.K. punters to participate, then it must be licensed by the Gambling Commission.

Bookmakers Today

bookmakers today

In the United Kingdom, the 2005 Gambling Act and the required Gambling Commission approval is still the law today. We’ve seen this industry become huge all over the internet. Many punters love the fact that they don’t have to leave the comfort of their homes to get in on the action.

Some of the bookmaker’s sites offer live streaming and in-play betting while sporting events are in progress. There are usually 50 or more sports that you can bet on with an online bookie including darts, motorsports, MMA, table tennis and many more.

At present, you can also bet on things like politics, entertainment, esports and virtual sports. It’s no longer limited to live sporting events. There’s been a rise in offering online bonus code offers, loyalty programmes and cashback.

There are many ways to bet online with many betting strategies that work for lots of punters. Some gamblers bet on sports as their primary income and have become quite wealthy by doing this online. You don’t need much to start; you just need a good strategy.

Although having so much access to gambling can be fun, for some, it’s also a problem. There’s been a rise in gambling addiction. Some bookies make it too easy to continue depositing ever more money into their accounts. You only have to do one click and can wager again. Online gambling is convenient but is it too convenient?

We’ll likely see more additions to bookmaking companies in the years to come as technology continues to advance. The only thing we know for sure about the future is that there will continue to be gambling online or offline.

The Bottom Line

Gambling has been around for as long as we can remember and continues to advance as we do. A lot has happened since ancient Chinese tile games. We are now gambling on esports and more.

Thanks to Harry Odgen, we have bookies that have made sports betting more interesting. There are many varieties of sports gambling and regulations the punters of the United Kingdom can enjoy and feel safe doing it.

Kristiyan Kyulyunkov
Kristiyan KyulyunkovKristiyan Kyulyunkov specializes in bookmakers’ analyses. He has years of experience betting online and always keeps an eye on the different operators. His tasks in Nostrabet include writing, editing and publishing expert reviews.