The Evolution of Sports Betting

Sports betting as we know it today has travelled a very interesting pathway and it predicted to continue as long as there are people to place bets and sporting events to wager upon on Planet Earth. Many people don’t realize what the dawn of the Internet meant to the sports betting world.

Around the 1950s the main sports betting venue was football. In the beginning, betting lines and all the components associated with their formulation literally had to be done by hand and published on a weekly basis. One of the biggest bookies in the business, Jimmy Vaccaro speaks of a childhood memory of riding around with older relatives looking for these publications which were available at some newsstands but not in every town. He also said the ones they found were discreetly placed away from the top racks at gasoline stations.

Credit by some with being one of the fathers of sports betting, Leo Hirschfield began a weekly publication entitled “Minneapolis Line.” Some sports betting historians maintain that the publication was actually owned by Billy Hecht. Around 1957, Mort Olson, who is rumoured to have trained under one or both of these sports betting champions, instituted a data publication that was originally known as The Green Sheet. That old saying “behind every good man is a good woman” could definitely apply to Olson, since his wife is credited with convincing him to change the name to The Gold Sheet. At any rate, Olson, who passed away in October 2003, made an indelible mark on the sports betting industry with his insistence that all data on The Gold Sheet must be honest and accurate with a splash of humour on the side.

A 1971 article by Olson gives a hint about his ability as a sheet master. It seems he was watching a football game with his wife when a severely violent thunderstorm sent both the teams and the spectators scrambling for safety. In the process Olson told his wife “God It’s Great To Be Alive And Up By Seven.” For the Minneapolis Line, The Green Sheet and The Gold Sheet, Olson’s main duty was to study the sports section of as many major city newspapers as he could find, calculate the odds and formulate top betting lines.

Legalization of Gambling in Nevada

The 1930 legalization of casino gambling in Nevada paved the way for sports betting sheets. By 1951, bookmaking became a legal activity which was conducted from small shops. These establishments were affectionately known as sawdust rooms where the betting options were written on chalkboards. The crown for the Granddaddy of Bookmakers belongs to Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder. Since television was in its infancy during the 1950s with big-screens only 8-by-10-inches, little did the sports betting world realize the platform television would provide for good ole’ Jimmy The Greek who ended up becoming a member of the CBS-TV football promo crew. This position gave Jimmy the perfect avenue to subtly deliver the odds to venues ranging from viewers in private home to those in bars and sports clubs.

 

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