History of the Bookmaker

It’s rumoured that the history of bookmakers originates back to a chap called Harry Ogden.

Harry was reportedly the first person ever to profit as a bookmaker, operating out of Newmarket Heath back in the mid-1790s – near enough to the racecourse to have a view of the winners but far enough away that he wouldn’t get bothered by staff.

Before Ogden came along, the history of gambling was very different.

It was standard practice for gamblers to bet against each other – dividing the field between them and claiming the winnings if they took first place.

Often as a gentlemen’s agreement – and because there weren’t that many takers – the bet would simply be ‘Horse ‘A’ will win’ or ‘Horse ‘A’ won’t win.’ This gave the rest of the field the same odds as the clear favourite.

Once Ogden had cleverly studied the field and laid odds on each horse, rather than on one of two events, the proposition of bookmaking was born.

In 1845, a law was passed which restricted all forms of gambling to the racetrack, preventing gamblers from meeting for a public game of cards with a wager at stake.

The government had grown concerned about the hobby and decided to enforce a ‘no cheating rule’ to make wagers into full-blown contracts. This law was punishable by up to two years in jail – meaning an end to racetrack shysters.

Brick and mortar bookies

The largest change in the history of bookmakers, which took a step towards the way we know it today, came in the 1960s with the introduction of the brick and mortar bookies.

This meant that bookmaking was no longer restricted to the track, which opened up a large market of betting into other mainstream sports, such as football, rugby and cricket.

There have been some strange bets taken in the history of gambling.

One gentleman, in December 1989, won £194,400 from a £30 bet. He predicted that when the clock struck midnight to bring in the new Millennium, U2 would still be producing music, all three of Australia’s big soap operas would still be running and showing on UK screens, and Cliff Richard would receive a knighthood!

And when it comes to setting a high-rolling example, look no further than two of the biggest names in bookmaking.

In 2005, Fred Done of Betfred bookmakers, bet that his boyhood team, Manchester United, would finish higher than Chelsea in the league. Unfortunately, as Chelsea romped to a record points total on their way to the title, Fred had to pay up to rival bookmaker.

The influence of the internet

The introduction of online betting has changed the history of bookmakers, and led to great interest in live sports betting, as well as online casinos and other forms of gaming.

Betting is now easily accessible to anyone who wants to give it a try, with loads of free bet offers available online, and options to look over the best odds available at any given time.

These improvements mean that betting is now quicker, easier and more well informed than ever. Plus, with a little help from us at Bookmakers, it is much safer than it would’ve been a few years ago.

So the next time you’re placing a bet, or playing a game of poker, count your lucky stars that gambling is now simple, safe and entertaining!