Sports are hugely popular in every country on Earth, and plenty of people enjoy the thrill of watching their favorite team play. However, a similarly sizable chunk of the global population also enjoys spicing up sporting events by placing a wager on the outcome.
Here’s a look at the way this activity is approached internationally, examining attitudes and legislation covering it in different regions.
No two countries in Europe take entirely identical standpoints on gambling, especially when it comes to sports markets. In Germany, there is a huge, well-regulated industry in place; the same is true in the UK, which is often cited as one of the beacons of legitimate gaming and an example of how this can be controlled to boost the economy and generate tax revenues. Spain and Italy are big gaming nations, with wagers placed there often outstripping neighbouring countries by a significant margin.
Elsewhere in Europe, there are much stricter laws preventing the legal provision of wagering services for sports events, outside of state-controlled monopolies. This is the case in many parts of Scandinavia, for example, including Norway and Sweden.
In essence, there is a widespread appreciation for gaming activities across Europe, but a significant divide between nations over whether private companies should be allowed to get involved in the industry, or whether public control should be retained at all times.
With around half of US adults admitting to indulging in a sports-based wager at least once, it is clear that the industry has huge traction here.
In the early 1990s, politicians introduced an act which outlawed the practice, although a handful of states, including Delaware and Nevada, managed to avoid inclusion. It is still forbidden in the majority of the US, but the tide is shifting and nationwide legalization seems just around the corner. With sports betting in New Jersey and other states gathering momentum, it is only a matter of time before change arrives.
Meanwhile, in Canada, approximately half a billion dollars is gambled each year via legitimate bookmaking services. At the moment it is still against the law to make wagers on specific sporting events, which is why citizens here either look for loopholes or take advantage of online providers operating in other regions.
Sitting at the southern tip of North America, Mexico is not exactly a gambling haven but is generally a lot more liberal in its attitudes to wagering than in the US or Canada. Half a century ago, all forms of gambling were outlawed, but like many other countries, there have been significant legislative revisions in the interim, allowing regulated wagering to re-emerge, especially since the turn of the millennium.
Mexican citizens are perfectly able to place legal bets on a range of sports, from common options like horse racing to more outlandish and problematic activities like bullfighting.
The availability of gaming services and the strength of the industry is particularly polarised in Asia. In China, for example, it is completely illegal except for in pseudo-autonomous areas like Hong Kong and Macau. There are state-controlled ‘lotteries’, one of which caters to predicting sporting results, but there is no market for third-party providers to operate. In South Korea, there are also government-sanctioned sports betting operators that offer fixed odds in much the same way.
Japan has its own sports gaming services, so wagers on soccer, horse racing and a handful of other events can be placed. A pari-mutuel betting system is followed here, as with other state monopolized gambling services.
Thailand limits the wagering options of citizens to horse racing, with a similar state of affairs existing in India. Meanwhile, majority-Muslim nations, such as Malaysia, ban all forms of gambling for those who follow the dominant faith. Tourists from elsewhere are not hit with the same restrictions in certain Asian countries, which is an interesting twist on the economy-boosting power of gambling.
Australia deserves a small section all of its own, as it has spearheaded the legalization of various gambling activities, and its citizens spend more than $18 billion a year on this market. Slot machines take the lion’s share of the revenues, although sports betting is also popular and allowed under law, with more than half a million Australians wagering on a monthly basis.
Even in areas where it is considered illicit, this kind of gaming is a global phenomenon and has been for centuries, with modern regulators being forced to adapt to its ingrained popularity.
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