Gambling is one of the human race’s favorite vices, the perfect way to fly in the face of the moral majority while walking the tightrope of rags to riches at the same time. Like all good vices, it has existed since the dawn of time, or at least since homo lazy us thought of a way to participate in games without actually playing. Inevitably, betting 4 chickens on how many rocks it would take to finish off a shoplifter at the local stoning grew into a worldwide money-spinner with grand casinos and million dollar bookmaking businesses raking it in across the globe. Equally inevitable was that industry getting swallowed whole by the Internet, just barely recognizable by family and close friends.
Betting culture kicked off unluckily and, like pretty much everything else you could think of, in Ancient China. The fact that it predates legal tender suggests what we’ve all been thinking; that money was invented solely to stop early gamblers putting their wives up as a stake. Since the beginning, wagering on games of chance has been a moral black spot and nearly every religious text has an ambiguous passage the good and evil of baccarat in there somewhere. The US have a well-publicized love/hate relationship with the pastime, giving rise to hotbeds of ‘slot tourism’ like Las Vegas while next door in Utah your Average Joe can’t even bet on an NFL game.
Fast forward to Q1 of the 21st century, gambling industry is growing into something bigger than any of those Ancient Chinese philosophers could have imagined. Online poker turned what was a sexist, elitist posing competition causing drunken arguments at kitchen tables across the English-speaking world into an inclusive and civilized pastime for those quiet nights in at home. You can even make an honest living from it if you’re prepared to stay up all night living purely on coffee and take away pizza. Better yet, our streets are free of old ladies as they swap the bingo halls for web sites, leaving our towns bereft from the screeching cackle of the elderly.
Sports betting has been a huge institution in Great Britain since records began, with none of the same restrictions as experienced in the USA, but betting on ‘soccer’ doesn’t have great appeal to Americans. Since the move to online has happened, global betting habits are converging and commercial gambling on sports like American football is finally getting the attention it deserves. There is nothing more satisfying than putting your short-term financial future in the hands of a man who could eat your weight in chocolate pudding, unless they introduce the aforementioned event in the 2016 Olympics.
As well as a new level of variety, online gaming is a much safer prospect than the bookmakers of the past; no longer will we have to scour dank alleys to put USD 50 on the spread, or have to use the words “PLEASE DON’T BREAK MY LEGS, I HAVE KIDS TO FEED” again. The majority of sites are fully licensed, accepting all types of legitimate online payment and most importantly you don’t have to leave the warm fuzzy glow of your computer screen. Although I prefer my living room, some purists may want to take their laptop or tablet down a questionable back street or get their spouse to hang them off a tenth floor balcony demanding payment.
The history of gambling has been long and colorful, fraught with glory and misery in equal measure, but not since the first brick on the Las Vegas strip was laid has there been such a significant development as online betting. With more bookmakers to choose from, amazing innovations like betting in play and competitive deals like free stake money on sign-up there has never been a better era for the humble gambler than now. Good luck to all of you and remember, the house always wins but unlike the house, you might just get laid too!