Stake in the game

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

The sports-wagering industry has reached dizzying heights.

The volume of bets and the amount of money changing hands around the world continues to increase.

According to the Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, a record $500 billion US was wagered worldwide - legally and illegally combined - on sports last year. That means almost $1.4 billion US was bet every day on sporting events.

Betting on games in almost every sport has become an unstoppable craze.

"Sports wagering has become fashionable," said a gambler's anonymous member.

"And the availability to make wagers is huge."

Placing a bet on a sports game is almost the easiest task of the day. From your cellphone while driving a car, to the BlackBerry on your belt, to your laptop computer to the corner store - you can make a wager in almost no time.

When Sports Select debuted on October 1, 1990, 500 convenience stores were equipped to handle wagers.

Today, the number has skyrocketed to 3,900 outlets.

But nothing is growing like online wagering.

International sports books are riding an incredible wave of popularity. Almost $100 billion US - according to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants - was pushed offshore in 2005. In comparison, about $6 billion US was wagered off the continent in 1998. Simple math shows that number has been multiplied 17 times to reach today's total.

"Every online sports-book operator I have spoken to stated that records were already broken for the amount of bets taken on this year's Super Bowl compared to previous Super Bowls a number of days prior to the actual game (last month)," said Christopher Costigan, the founder and president of gambling911.com, considered to be the global leader in gambling news.

Although it's hard to pinpoint an exact number, it's estimated there are more than 200 online sports books operating today.

"Sports wagering is all about ownership and entertainment," said Calvin Ayre, the CEO of Bodog.com, arguably the most recognized and powerful offshore sports book on the planet.

"It is the emotional equivalent to, say, moving from the bleachers to the actual sidelines in a football game.

"Once a player places a sports bet, they own a stake in the game. And how can a game be anything but entertaining if you have a stake in the outcome?"

That explains why gambling on sports games has become part of life for millions of people in North America.


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