Sports betting is as old as sporting competition itself. When Adam threw his first apple in the garden of Eden, he called out: “Hey, Eve, I bet I can throw this apple further than you.”
To which Eve replied, naturally: “Yes dear, I’m sure you can. Why don’t you have a little bet with yourself?”
Anyway, soon enough men were betting. If it wasn’t currency or goods at stake, it was prestige and reputation – but not necessarily those of the contestants. You can be pretty sure that the Gladiators of the ancient Roman Empire didn’t stand to make any gold or silver coins…although the prospect of staying alive and perhaps even being granted freedom one day was a decent incentive to stay in form with sword and shield.
The very first organised games of cricket were organised and hosted by wealthy, land-owning gentry in the English countryside who laid always significant but occasionally huge wagers on their teams.
The best fast bowlers and batsmen were ‘incentivised’ by their landlords with extra bags of grain, a few silver coins and even the promise of promotion. Sometimes, of course, the rival team owner would employ an undercover agent to ‘disincentivise’ the players with an even better offer. Oh yes, folks, sorry to say it – but there are documented cases of match-fixing and under-performing dating back over 300 years.
What does all this have to do with today? An awful lot, in my opinion.
Let’s start with the premise that betting may be frowned upon or even banned (like in India) but it will never be stopped. Unless, of course, you are Muslim.
In the UK, Australia and Caribbean it’s possible to lay a bet on most aspects of a cricket match inside the match venue itself. Gambling on cricket is illegal in India so the practise is forced ‘underground’ where it has burgeoned, without regulation or monitoring, into a monster without honour, a vice pit attracting the very worst characters.
Here in South Africa we still treat the industry like nipples in a 1980s men’s magazine. Come on. Bookmaking, if regulated and controlled, is not the evil many of us assume it to be. In fact, it harms many, many fewer people that most other vices freely available in the market place.
Cricket needs to compete for its share of the viewing audience, and to do that it needs money. There is money in Bookmaking, sometimes lots of it. So let’s put all the rules and regulations in place, monitor the business, continue to educate players to the potential dangers of fixing…and then embrace the industry.
The Sunfoil Dolphins have just signed a sponsorship contract with Hollywoodbets.com. Good for them.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.