Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world, dating back thousands of years, and gambling on the outcome of a race has always been popular with spectators. However, placing a wager on a horse race hasn’t always been legal in the UK. Luckily, you can now place your horse racing bets here.
History of horse racing
King James I is largely credited with building the foundations of the horse racing scene we see today, as he established the Suffolk town of Newmarket as a royal resort in the 17th century. He built the famous palace house, and Newmarket was then recognised as a horse racing landmark. Newmarket is often referred to as ‘horse racing HQ’ in the modern day.
Queen Anne played a significant role in establishing horse racing as the popular pastime that we recognise it as today. She had a vision of creating a place for thoroughbred horses to race at their absolute maximum. It was this vision that saw Ascot racecourse established in 1711, with the very first meeting taking place their in the same year. To this day, her contribution to the sport of horse racing is recognised, as the Queen Anne Stakes is always the first race of the Royal Ascot meeting.
In the early 19th century, the British Classic races were established, consisting of the 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas, St. Ledger, the Epsom Oaks and the Epsom Derby. The Triple Crown, which is acquired by winning the 2,000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and the St Ledger, is largely considered to be the greatest achievement in the sport. The last horse to achieve this mammoth feat was the infamous Nijinsky in 1970.
Betting on horse racing
For a long time, betting on horse racing was illegal. Also at this time, horse racing was only accessible to the wealthy, which earned it the nickname of ‘The Sport of Kings’. By the early 20th century, this resulted in many ‘underground’ bookmakers being created, giving the working class a chance to bet on the outcome of horse races. However, this was extremely risky and wasn’t regulated.
The government saw an opportunity, and, with the Race Betting Act 1928 passed by Winston Churchill, there was now the ability to run a legitimate bookmaker operation. The legislation ensured that profits made could be invested back into the sport and the government were able to tax and control it. This meant that people attending a racecourse could legally place a bet, with Newmarket and Carlisle believed to be the first to host on-course bookmakers.
The most significant development in horse racing betting in the UK was the Betting Levy Act 1961, which legalised the creation of off-course bookmakers. This meant that anyone could place a bet on horse racing, without having to attend the racecourse. This legislation truly brought horse racing to the UK public.
Online horse racing betting
Due to the invention of broadband internet, the early 21st century saw a boom in the accessibility of online horse racing betting. Giving punters the opportunity to bet on horse racing from the comfort of their own homes via a mobile, tablet or computer/laptop appealed to the masses. As of 2018, the online gambling industry is thought to be worth in excess of £14.4 billion. The future looks bright.