The History of Sports Betting Odds

The History of Sports Betting Odds

Sports betting odds have a complete history of their own.

Key Points

– Sports betting odds have been expressed differently throughout history.

– Different areas of the world – like American odds in the U.S. – prefer sports betting odds expressed in different formats. 

The History of Sports Betting Odds

It’s not the world’s oldest profession, but gambling on sports has been around for a very long time. 

For most of history, betting on sporting events, especially in the U.S. was not legal. It was thought that gambling on such events would ruin the competitive nature of the sport. 

Fast forward and we see now that the global sports market and the worldwide sports betting markets coexist without much conflict at all. 

How did it all start? Here’s a look at the history of sports betting odds.

Got Started With Horse Racing

It all started with horses. More specifically, it was likely bets on chariot races in the old Roman Empire that started it all. Wagers on Roman gladiator fights were probably involved too.

Betting on horse racing began in Europe somewhere in the 17th century. It made its way to America in the 18th century and still thrives today. Horse racing’s Triple Crown – Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes – brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in bets.

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Fractional Odds

To this day, horse racing still favors using fractional odds. Fractional odds like 4/1 quote the net total that is paid out to a winning bettor relative to the stake.

For example, the 4/1 odds above indicate that if a bettor wagers $100 he will win $400. The winner also receives his stake back, so in this case the bettor wins $400 plus his $100 stake for a total of $500.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are favored in Europe, Australia, and a few other countries. These odds show the ratio of the payout amount relative to the stake and include the stake.

Decimal odds then are equal to the decimal value of the fractional odds plus one. Using the example above, the fractional odds of 4/1 are equal to decimal odds of 5.00

Sports Betting Odds – American Odds

Also known as moneyline odds, American odds are, as the name states, preferred by U.S. bookmakers. They are the ones North American bettors see when looking at sports odds and scores.

Moneyline odds are expressed as positive and negative numbers. The favorite is given a negative number, which shows that an outcome is more likely to happen. These odds are also expressed in terms of how much must be wagered to win $100.

If a favorite was given -400 odds (the equivalent of ¼ fractional odds), a bettor must wager $400 to win $100.

Underdogs are expressed with positive odds. From the above example, +400 odds are the equivalent of 4/1 fractional odds. A wager of $100 will pay out $400.

These moneyline odds became more popular as betting moved from horse racing into other major sports like football and basketball.

Depending upon where you are in the world today, you will see sports betting odds in one of these formats.