Sports gambling and the rise of betting sites has totally and utterly changed the experience of the contemporary sports fan. There are a million examples of why this is the case, but let me just illustrate my point with a match from very recent memory. Everton v Spurs on Sunday. Everyone and their mother had heard that one fascinating stat about Tottenham: Spurs would be first in the league if football matches ended after 80 minutes. So let's rewind shall we? Clint Dempsey's 76th minute goal gave Spurs a 1-nil lead at Goodison Park. Thanks to the magic of betting sites, people watching the match online had a pretty clear choice - they knew that Spurs' defense were notoriously leaky in the final ten minutes on matches. The betting sites offered a range of offers - punters could have put a fiver on another goal to be scored on a draw, or even an Everton win.
Yet as the seconds ticked down towards fulltime, the online punter naturally became more and more nervous. Despite their best efforts, Everton could not score. Perhaps Spurs were miraculously going to reverse their form in the final ten minutes and eek out a great victory against a rival for that lucrative fourth Champions League place. Perhaps those online punters who saw opportunity ten minutes previous were tempted to return to the site where they'd made the bet and cash out. But lo and behold, once the match headed into stoppage time, the inevitable happened. First Pienaar levelled affairs and then two minutes later, Jelavic gave Everton the lead once and for all. AVB and Spurs were shellshocked, Goodison was in raptures, and the smart online football punter was relieved. A game in the shadow of the big Manchester Derby found a greater relevance because of online gambling.
In the internet age, watching a game is only half of the fun of following football. Social media enhances the conversation around the game and betting sites make it possible to profit on your football knowledge by gambling on all kinds of events.
Even nil-all draws at Stoke on a wet Tuesday can be rewarding now.