How betting differs in Europe and the US

Sports betting has been around, in its organized and regulated form, for more than two centuries. Harry Ogden, the first bookmaker, opened his business in 1970, unknowingly creating an industry worth billions every year.

We can say that betting is a traditional pastime in most corners of the globe – but there are exceptions where, due to one reason or another, it is not. One example is the US where, for almost three decades, it was against the law. This suddenly changed a few years ago, when a decision made by the US Supreme Court struck down a bill that completely banned betting on sports – with a few minor exceptions. 

In the years that have passed ever since, betting has been spreading fast in the US. But the betting you see there is not the same you’d encounter on the European market.

A lot of it happens online

Online betting outlets often cover a complete range of gambling options, from slot machines, and table games to live casino games and poker. The situation is similar at US-facing betting outlets. But here, the regulatory landscape is very complex – the list of regulated services is different from one state to another, so operators have to block some in certain locations and allow them in others.

In the EU, pretty much every form of gambling is regulated. Operators have the option to obtain a license to offer any or all of them, through separate brands or as part of the same brand. The betting options are pretty much the same, only the sports in focus differ to cater to the tastes of local audiences. 

Betting in the EU is widely available, with dozens of operators offering their services online, many of them in multiple countries. As opposed to the US, these operators don’t need to partner up with a licensed land-based casino operator (land-based casinos are relatively rare over there) – there are several betting and gambling brands that operate exclusively online.

… but there is plenty in real life, too

In most European countries, you’ll stumble upon a betting shop on every street corner. The brands would also be familiar: there are plenty of betting operations with a long history that transitioned from purely retail operations to the great online. These are usually the best-known brands in the industry – William Hill, Paddy Power or Betfair, to name just a few. 

Each country has at least a handful of local or regional betting operators working on the European market. The betting shops are usually small, cozy, and contain little more than an operator, a few gambling machines, and plenty of screens that constantly transmit sporting events and betting tips.

In the US, everything is bigger – this includes betting shops (if we can call them that). This May, Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonis inaugurated a 20,000 square feet (that’s almost 1900 square meters, for those who use metric) inside the Capital One Arena. He considers this one of his greatest achievements, a peek inside the future of sports, and his only regret is that the William Hill-powered sportsbook is not bigger. 

The US sports betting market is very much in a developmental phase. It was (re)born only recently, and its development – at least when it comes to retail – was slowed considerably by the global pandemic that pretty much shut down the country for months. But it’s getting there – and it will be even more grand and spectacular than its European counterpart. Maybe greater.

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