Everything You Need To Know About the History of Sports Betting

Ever wondered how the idea of betting on sports came into being? Who were the first bookmakers in history? How sports gambling shunned the stigma once attached to its name and become a $400 billion industry?

Provided you’ve ever found yourself grappling with these questions, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re going to shed some light on the history of sports betting (including sms betting in Kenya) and how it went from being a novel amusement of the aristocracy to everybody’s favorite pastime. 

How Sports Betting Came Into Being?

Although it’s almost impossible to trace the origin of the first bet, we can say with confidence that it was the Greeks who popularized sports betting. It was common for the spectators of the ancient Olympic Games to wager their money on what they perceived to be the winners.

However, while Greeks no doubt were the inventors of sports betting, the idea that people should bet on their favorite games was popularized only at the tail-end of the 19th century. The credit for this goes to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who took many initiatives to popularize sports betting.

The aristocrat created the Union of French Societies of Athletic Sports in 1887 to let those of noble origin bet on physical sports. Three years later, this union opened up to fencing, swimming, field hockey, and rugby, and more bettors entered the fray.

Who were the first bookmakers?

As fans of the popular Netflix series ‘’The Peaky Blinders” might tell you, the first bookmakers were horse owners who took great pride from their horses taking part in annual races. Horse betting, however, was limited to the landed gentry and the aristocracy for much of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Around the end of the 19th century, Charles II’s love for betting opened the avenue of sports betting to bigger audiences. Half-a-century later, the British government, frustrated by the bawdiness which the combo of gambling and alcohol led to, banned gambling in pubs.

That was followed by the passage of the 1845 Gambling Act, which inadvertently contributed to the rise in popularity of betting shops. The bookmakers in the pubs played a double role: that of the scribes as well as of arbitrators. 


Originated by the Greeks and popularized by the English, sports betting has come a long way from its humble origins, with its modern-day shape almost incomparable to that of its early days.

About Marcelo Villa

Marcelo is an associate editor at The Sports Daily, and has covered the San Diego Chargers for Bleacher Report. He also writes for Sportsdirect Inc.