Plenty At Stake: The Hand-in-Hand Relationship of Betting and Football

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5000-1! Will the diehard Leicester City fan cash out his five pound bet with just weeks to go? This success would be of the longest odds ever gambled on in the history of sport!

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These were some of the thoughts that helped make up the narrative surrounding the 2015/2016 English Premier League title race that was won by unlikely heroes Leicester City. It is hard to recall any other sporting event, much less a football competition, whose story has been so vividly told through the medium of odds and stakes.

This campaign, with its title race written in shortening odds, has never more clearly illustrated the entrenchment of the betting industry in soccer – the most popular sport in the world. The betting industry and the odds it sets have become as important to the fan as injuries and team news.

What are our odds, the fan may ask even before they work out if their star striker passed his fitness test for their next match. Numbers and statistics have always been important for fans and as such odds and betting are now part of the soccer and sporting lexicon. Will the ‘odds-on’ favorite win as expected or will the outsider surprise us all?

For many, the sports betting industry now defines the narrative that is presented to the public regarding their sport.

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Odds contextualize the contest at hand, defining the ‘sure thing’ favorites, the rank outsiders and the ‘even money’ match not to be missed by any discerning sporting connoisseur. Heightening the intrigue is the fact football, more acutely then most sports, brings a level of unpredictability that both gamblers and industry providers thrive on.

The sport throws up results that inspire and surprise through their difficulty to accurately predict.

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The deflected goal, the shot that hits the crossbar, the early red card for the best player of the favorite, the days that every shot a team takes seem to cross the line and likewise the days when the opposite happens all contribute to the appeal of football betting. Anything can happen in football, and with upwards of 200 plus events that can be bet on in some matches, anything can have a wager placed on it.

This environment has led to an exponential growth in sports betting, in particular for football. Estimates put the current worth of the sports betting industry upwards of $US1tn with football betting accounting for an estimated 70 percent. With advances and growth of the internet and mobile access, coupled with increased coverage of football across the globe, opportunities to place wagers have never been more prevalent. In-game betting has also become widespread with punters feeding off the energy of live sport to make bets on the action as it happens.

It will be interesting to see the natural course the sports betting industry takes in the future. The industry has been large for a long time, however through the internet now it is truly global, instantaneous and highly visible to people of all ages. For the next generation and those who follow, it appears that the industry will be so ingrained in sport that it would be hard for those ones to imagine any sporting context without it.

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