The History of Soccer Sports Betting

A person holds a phone in front of a laptop with live sports betting on the screen.

Nowadays, if you want to put a soccer betting wager down on a local game in the MLS or a game across the world such as in the Premier League or La Liga, all you have to do is get on an online sportsbook and place your bet.

Soccer is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports to bet on and there are games throughout the year with hundreds of different soccer odds and bets to choose from. It hasn’t always been like this, however. Placing a bet on soccer has become a lot easier than it used to be in the past. 

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at the history of sports betting in the soccer industry and how we got to where we are today.

Back to the beginning

Many decades before the advent of online sports betting, soccer was still in its infancy; the first modern form of soccer made its appearance in England around 1863. Of course, where there are sports, there’s bound to be betting, although most of the betting at this stage took place between friends who put money on which team would win and which would lose.

As the sport grew, however, so did the formality of the wagers. The first bets took place in bars and other dodgy establishments, but the law soon caught up with this and banned betting in these institutions through the Betting Houses Act. 

This, in turn, produced the right atmosphere for illegal back-street bookmakers who were taking bets in alleyways and dark parks.

The invention of fixed-odds betting

The tunnel leading out onto a soccer pitch.

Funnily enough, soccer had a huge part to play in the invention of the fixed-odds betting style that is now the predominant sports odds type. The game really began to take off at the end of the 19th century and it wasn’t long until the newspapers realized the monetary value of the games. They started to offer prizes to readers who were able to predict the outcome of the weekend’s matches. These prizes were fixed and the whole system soon became known as ‘fixed-odds’. These prizes usually weren’t in the form of cash, and so they were able to get around the rules and regulations of sports betting at the time.

The pools

In 1923, soccer pools became a thing. The first of these were offered outside Old Trafford in 1923. For many years, this was the only choice that people had if they wanted to engage in legal soccer betting.

Manchester United fan and philanthropist, John Moores, founded the first company to offer soccer pools. Littlewoods Pools looked like it was doomed for failure, but Moore’s wife convinced him to stick with the soccer pools and it’s a good thing that she did. The company was such a success that rival companies started to pop up all over the country and Moore was a millionaire by the 1930s.

These soccer pools were technically legal according to the Betting Houses Act because the betting took place on matches that the bettors were attending. They continued to flourish right up until the 1960s when the laws went through some serious changes.

Betting laws change

 The back view of a man watching soccer on the couch with his arms in the air.

The Betting Houses Act had been in effect since 1853 and made it illegal to ‘resort to any place or person for the purposes of betting and bookmaking’. The evidence from the 1840s and 1850s shows that it was mainly the working class that were being arrested for entering betting houses.

However, those in a position of power had to concede that they could not keep sports betting at bay forever and the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 came into force. This allowed formal betting shops to open up in public streets from May 1960. Thousands of these shops sprang up in a matter of months.

It took some time, but soon punters were able to place a whole host of fixed-odds bets on soccer from legal betting houses, many of which are still around today.

Online sports betting and soccer’s global appeal

Two male friends watching soccer on the TV and in-game betting on a mobile phone.

Of course, the internet changed absolutely everything when it came to sports betting. The first online sports betting site opened in 1996, following on the heels of online casinos. Keep in mind, however, that the industry was in its infancy and it mostly included fixed-odds bets on the outcome of games. The first live or in-game betting was introduced in 2002 and it is now one of the most popular options for soccer bets.

Of course, the history of sports betting in the USA has its own timeline that doesn’t coincide much with the UK’s soccer betting history. With sports betting still very much illegal at the beginning of the century, most US bettors placed their bets via offshore betting sites, as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) made it an offense to bet on sports in pretty much every state except Nevada for nearly 26 years.

Luckily, the Supreme Court overturned the law in 2018 and there are now many reputable online soccer betting sites in the USA. 

Although the MLS was founded in 1993, soccer was still not one of the most popular sports in the USA. However, the newfound freedom of betting on overseas soccer matches boosted the sport’s rating in the US and it has undoubtedly grown on home soil over the last decade. 

The global appeal of soccer has made it an online betting phenomenon, with the FIFA World Cup, the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, and the EUROs appealing to audiences and betting fans all over the world.

Bet on soccer with Borgata

As you can see, soccer has a colorful betting history throughout the ages. At Borgata, we are proud to offer soccer bets of all kinds to our customers for events all over the world. Whether you’re looking to place a wager on the outcome of a game, on a particular player, or try some live in-game betting, we’ve got you covered.

Register with Borgata online sportsbook.