How has sports betting changed in the digital age?

Everything has changed around us in the digital era, and if Marty McFly were to blow in from 1985 in his DeLorean, he’d find certain aspects of 2019 to be even more incredible than Robert Zemicks could have imagined back in the 1980s. Of course, for those of us who have traversed the past 34 year in the conventional way, evolution has come gradually. It is only when we closely examine a specific area that has been impacted by the internet age that we can fully comprehend just how immense that overall change has been.

What did sports betting look like in the mid 80s? For most of us, it meant one of two things. The first was that every weekend families would “do the pools,” ticking off their regular numbers on the coupons and then waiting till Saturday afternoon and watching the football results on TV to see how many score draws they had got. Of course, that was kicked into touch by the arrival of the National Lottery. 

From the betting shop to your smartphone

The other type of sports betting took place in betting shops that you would see in every town and on any parade of shops in the suburbs. These always had an air of intrigue about them with their frosted glass windows and doors concealing the mysteries that went on inside from passers by.   

The betting shop was seen as a place frequented by a special breed of expert bettors. Sure, there were some casual sports fans who might just place a few bets a year on the FA Cup Final or the Grand National, but they felt they were encroaching in an alien environment as they stepped through the door into the smoke-laden air and filled out their betting slips.


Compare that to today, when anyone and everyone can install a betting app on their smartphone. Often the apps come from the very same companies that continue to operate those physical betting shops, while others are from entirely new operators. Each has its own features, and there is an abundance of online tips for choosing the best bookmaker app. What they all have in common, though, is that they make it possible to place a range of bets on any sporting event without leaving your sofa – or even from the terraces while you are at the game. However, mobile betting apps have brought more than just convenience to the table.   

New types of betting

Most people’s notion of sports betting is backing Manchester City to beat Watford in the FA Cup Final, or Tiger Roll to win the Grand National. But of course, there are variations on these bets. This has always been the case with traditional bookies, where punters can place an accumulator on a succession of football matches, or perhaps an each-way bet on a horse to place in the top four of a race.

The advent of betting apps has opened up the range of betting choices immeasurably. For example, did you know you can place a bet at any time on who will be the next Premier League manager to leave his post, either voluntarily or otherwise? At the time of writing, that’s Marco Silva, who already has one foot out of the door at Everton, but next favourite is West Ham’s Manuel Pellegrini.

Even more dramatic, though, is the advent of live betting. Ever seen those old movies where they dramatically close the shutters in the betting office and say no more bets as the horse race or football match commences? Well there are no such shutters on your smartphone, and live betting allows you to keep placing wagers while the game is in progress. The fast and furious nature of live betting, with its constantly changing odds, makes it something that just wouldn’t have been possible in the pre-internet age. 

Live betting is most common in football, but is gradually being introduced in other sports. You can envisage the drama it could bring to a game like tennis, where every point or double fault can cause a change in the odds. 

A wider choice of sports

Perhaps the biggest change of all, however, is that an online sports betting app can cover any and every sport you can think of, wherever it happens in the world. Imagine walking into a UK bookmaker in the 1980s and saying you want to place a bet on LSU to beat Georgia in the NCAA American College Football league next weekend. You’d have either been met with a blank stare or sardonically advised to get on a plane to America. 


Today, you can place exactly that bet, and choose from countless other sporting events, leagues and tournaments. It provides a way for sports enthusiasts to broaden their horizons, both in terms of different sports, but also tournaments that take place in different places. 


Suppose your sporting passion is cricket. In the past, this would be a quiet time of year. With the domestic season long finished, the only thing on the horizon would be England’s winter tour. Now, however, there are T20 tournaments in the Indian subcontinent, the Sheffield Shield in Australia and countless other major and minor matches going on around the world. The point is, whatever your sport of choice, someone is usually playing it somewhere, and online betting apps provide you with the means to get personally involved in the action. 

Better fan engagement

The internet has brought sports betting to everyday fans. Ultimately, it is not about trying to make a profit. Of course, a win is always a nice thing, but placing a pound or two on your team or athlete of choice means you have a genuine stake in the outcome, and can share in their victory in a tangible way.

The growing popularity of sports betting over in the US has provided a perfect illustration of this. From the moment the legislation was relaxed early last year, states were eager to introduce sports betting, and fans couldn’t wait to get involved, not because they are desperate gamblers, but because they have a passion for their sport.