The origins of horse racing are steeped in tales of kings and queens that owned and raced their own majestic animals. For almost as long as there has been horse racing there has been horse gambling. It seems to be a sport that has always lent itself to wagers between participants. At some point the betting expanded to include spectators. Today, millions of people bet horses at live tracks and online racebooks.
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EZ Horse Betting has put together a few things you may not know about the history of horse gambling. It is a history filled with royalty and lowlifes. One thing is for sure. Horse race betting is something that has been enjoyed by all types of people.
UK Horse Betting History
A good place to begin when looking at race betting from a historical perspective is the UK. Specifically, the reign of King James I and the building of Newmarket. The small town of Newmarket was transformed by the King who is credited with one of the most popular translations of the Bible. It became a sort of royal resort where King James and his inner circle could retreat for leisure.
This was in the early 1600s. James was fond of horse racing, and was an owner of impressive race horses that he liked to race. Newmarket became the home of the first organized horse races in the UK, and betting was a part of the attraction. Of course, at this time watching and betting on horses was an activity that was reserved for the elite.
Later, horse racing would be established at Royal Ascot and other venues in the UK. As the sport became more popular it opened up to the masses. The general public did not own horses or compete with the elite in racing contests, but they liked to watch the spectacle of racing and make bets. This opened up the door to the bookmaker, a staple of the UK race track to this very day.
It has always been common for horse gambling in the UK to be facilitated by bookies. These bookmakers set up shop at the race track and compete for the bets from patrons. Betting with bookies gives the bettor the opportunity to shop around for the best odds on horses. There is also tote board betting available in the UK today, but bookmakers continue to be a common sight at the UK racing venues.
US Horse Betting History
In the United States the history of horse gambling took a slightly different track. By the time horse racing made its way to the US the concept of parimutuel betting was in place. Established in France, parimutuel wagering literally means “betting among ourselves.” The best way to explain this type of betting is by stating that the racing public is the one that makes the betting market.
In America the odds offered on each horse are not set by bookies. They are determined by the bets that are made by spectators at the track and at online racebooks. As more bets are made on a horse, the odds on that horse will go down. It is a very fair system of assigning odds to horses. It also rewards the smartest handicappers on the grounds for picking winners.
Parimutuel wagering is also the reason that horse gambling has been legal in most US states for a very long time. It is not regarded in the same context as casino gambling where players compete against the house. In the US the race track has no stake in the outcome of the racing events. The track makes its money from handle, or a percentage of each betting pool that is withdrawn and kept by the racing venue.
There have been many famous horse gamblers in the US. Perhaps the best of them was a man called Pittsburgh Phil. This legendary gambler lived during the early part of the 20th century and is even credited with a book about his racing success called The Racing Maxims of Pittsburgh Phil. The book is a collection of quotes by Phil about his approach to horse racing.
The Modern Era of Horse Gambling
The world has certainly changed in the past 50 years as the rate of technological advancement has exponentially increased. The greatest innovation may be the rise of the Internet, of course, and this has affected the way that people like to bet on horses. It is now common for individuals to choose an online racebook to make their racing bets.
There are numerous advantages to betting horses online for real money. The biggest of these is that players around the world no longer need to travel to a live racetrack in order to make bets. As this scenario unfolds more people are exposed to the world of thoroughbred horse betting. You can wager with a phone, a tablet, or a computer from almost anywhere in the world.
Online horse betting has surely had an effect on betting at live race tracks. Attendance at many tracks in the US is down because more people are staying at home and betting. The online racebooks that are available today are very sophisticated in the way they provide betting. They have video streams from the tracks, advanced betting menus, and special promotions that reward players for betting online.
What is curious is that you can also see individuals at the live race track using their phone to make bets! Why would these individuals bet with an online racebook when they are present at the track? Let’s look closer at this phenomenon.
Online Racebooks are Replacing the Bookmaker
Remember how we talked about bookmakers being popular in the UK? They have never really been a factor in the US. Bookmakers do take bets on horses but they are not sanctioned to do so by the US racing authorities. To bet with a bookie is something that must be done in the shadows, and in America it just isn’t profitable to do that.
The reason for this is that bookmakers get paid whether you win or lose the bet. They charge a fee called vigorish just for taking the bet. Sure, the bookie makes more money when you lose for booking the bet, but they also take a chop of the winnings when you win. In short, the bookmaker cannot lose. It is also true that bookmakers have a hard time offering up the same juicy odds that many horses will pay on the track itself.
Online racebooks have now become a type of bookie without the vigorish. When you bet with them you are getting the same odds that you would get on the track, but you are also getting greater access to events around the world. With one account you can bet races in Australia, Japan, France, and the US. While you are playing the races at your live race track you can also be using your phone to make a bet at a track on another coast. All this happens in real time while you watch the live races.
Like the old bookmakers, online racebooks also have to compete for the dollars of the betting public. This means that the smart player can find many promotions to take advantage of. It is common for online racebooks to offer up deposit bonuses and frequent player rewards to keep players happy and betting at their website.
Betting in the Digital Age with Bitcoin
The latest development in horse gambling is a direct product of the digital age. Many online racebooks are now accepting Bitcoin as a form of wagering capital. Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency that was created as an alternative to cash. It has gained much popularity since it was introduced, and the token has been used for betting since the early stages.
Why would someone want to bet on horses with a digital currency? One reason is that Bitcoin offers a type of anonymity that cash does not. There is no paper trail created with Bitcoin like there is with a credit or debit card. Some people like the fact that this allows them to keep their online horse betting activities more private.
Another factor is that Bitcoin is a liquid asset. It has a value that is related to the US dollar but can be very volatile. At the time of this writing a single Bitcoin was worth $12,000. This value can fluctuate by hundreds or thousands of dollars in a single day.
Some horse racing bettors regard their Bitcoin bets as an investment. They take the money they win with Bitcoin and place it in the cryptocurrency market where it can be traded for other tokens or sold at a profit. It would probably be fair to say that some people are financing their Bitcoin investments with horse gambling.
Who knows what the future of horse gambling will hold? It is only certain that as long as there is horse racing there will be people willing to bet on the outcome.