Let me point now to some of the more popular team sports:
Baseball is of course America’s national sport, and an enormous amount of gambling money changes hands annually during the season, when 154 games are played in the two major leagues.  For example, a syndicated of bettors once won $ 825,000 from a bookmaker with one bet on a World Series (the final play-off between the two top major league teams).  Gamblers have tried to make their winnings certain by fixing games, as in the famous “White Sox” scandal of 1929 (to be discussed in Chapter 13).  But today professional baseball doesn’t fix very readily; the fans are among the most alert and knowledgeable sports fans in the world.

Aside from the $ 2,000,000,000 (according to one estimate) that is bet annually (through bookmakers) on individual teams in major-league baseball games, there is also a small following of gamblers who prefer to bet on baseball by means of pools.  Many of the pools are arranged privately between friends or office workers, but others are more professional; they are set up in the major cities by bookmakers or other entrepreneurs, who sell one-dollar tickets that entitle the holders to forecast the five teams that will score the greatest number of runs in a week.  The prize for the lucky prophet can often be around $ 25,000.

Cock fighting is another often gory contest involving animals.  Below right, a diagram shows the layout of a Cuban cockpit.  The cocks are weighed and spurred before their fight to the death.

This Extensive betting on baseball in a country where such gambling is illegal is facilitated by the telephone.  A person who wants to bet on a baseball game (or any other sports event) has only to contact a bookmaker’s agent (as usual, through a bar, newsstand, or similarly convenient meeting place), to have his bet handled, recorded, and passed on by telephone.  These agents are known as “pickup men” or “writers”; they collect and pay out on behalf of the bookmakers, who pay them 10 per cent of their net winnings – a tax-free untraceable income that bothers the federal authorities considerably, since it means a tax loss to the nation of about $ 5,000,000,000.  In a 1962 report from a senate committee on gambling, a commissioner of the Department of Internet Revenue is reported as saying that large-scale gambling requires “the widespread use of telephones.  Regular customers phone in daily wagers to bookmakers, and bets are accepted by telephone from out of town gamblers.”

Football (the highly complicated helmet-and-shoulder-pad American kind) is the second highest money-spinner in American spectator gambles.  College and professional games attract around $ 1,750,000,000 in bets yearly.  The main attraction in professional football is the National Football League; 14 teams played 98 games in 1962, and the crowds drawn amounted to about 4,000,000 people.  There are lesser leagues, like the American Football league with eight teams, and the United Football League with six teams.  And of course there is college football.  The 600-odd college teams inspire a lot of alumni nostalgia: Over 21,000,000 people attended college games in 1962.  Bets are usually laid privately between football fans, or with bookmakers through the same discreet procedure as in baseball.


An American football played is tackled by an opponent.

But sometimes discretion is not enough. In 1963 there was a minor gambling scandal involving members of the Detroit Lions (a team in the professional National Football League).  Five players had each bet $ 50 on another team to win the year’s championship, and two other players were found to have been making occasional casino bets for several years.  The N.F.L.  Commission fined each of the five $ 2000, and the two others were indefinitely suspended from playing.  There was no hint of crookedness in these bet; but, the Commission pointed out, players who gamble on their own sport run the risk of getting deep in debt and being tempted into fixing a game to recoup.  Also, of course, gambling on football is illegal everywhere in America except Nevada.

Football is not free of the menace of fixing.  The senate report on Gambling mentioned before refers to a case in 1960 of a member of the University of Oregon team who was approached with a bribe of $ 5000 to “make mistakes” so that his team would lose a match against Michigan.  The case was brought to light by the player himself, who rejected the fix and informed the police.
  American basketball has been more notorious than football for its fixing scandals of the 1950s when college stars or whole teams were being bribed to throw holdem poker games.  The bookmakers lost a lot of money, and have naturally been suspicious of all basketball betting ever since.  A gambler would be lucky to find even a big-time bookie who would accept a bet over $ 100 – whereas the same bookie would be delighted to cover a baseball bet of several thousand dollars.

A diagram of a basic football play-“the forward pass.”  The red-shirted played on the left has run (along the yellow line) to take the ball thrown by his teammate on the right.  (In striped shirts are the referee, linesmen, and umpire.) Below a chart showing  a typical “bookie’s edge” in a football match.  Since Army is the stronger team, bookies must try to offset heavy betting on Army by paying out on an Army win only when its score exceeds Navy’s by more than nine and one-half points.

Association football (soccer) is the main spectator attraction in practically every European country, as well as in South America, Russia, Africa, most of Australasia ,and elsewhere.  Betting on the game in most places is almost entirely concentrated in pools, a widely popular form of gambling for the amateur or small-time gamblers who occur in any country in big-time numbers.  Football-pool gamblers in countries like Sweden, Britain, Switzerland, and Germany usually submit both the guess and the stake money by mail.  Each week during the football season promoters send out printed coupons (to anyone who asks for them) that list all the league games to be played the following week.  On his coupon the gambler attempts to forecast the results.

He can usually choose several kinds of forecast-for example, which teams will win games played on their home grounds, which teams will win away from home, and which games will be drawn.  And he can vary his stake money to fit the number of chances he wants to buy.  As with pari-mutuel race-track betting, all the stake money is pooled and shared out among the winners by a system of points.  The promoters take a percentage for their operating costs and profit, and (in some countries) the state takes a percentage in tax.  (The state also profits handsomely by the sale of postage stamps and money orders.)

In 1961, bettors in Scandinavia spent the equivalent of $ 150,000,000 on football pools, in Australia $ 240,000,000, and in Britain $ 333,000,000.  The prize money is divided among the gamblers who forecast correct results; and in a week when thousands of people guess right, the dividend is naturally small.  But for a single all-correct forecast it has been as much as $ 750,000.
The football pools are considered by many gamblers to be noting more than lotteries, requiring no skill or special knowledge on the part of the bettors.  And, indeed, investigations have shown that many big prizewinners not only know nothing about the teams they had bet on-they have never even seen a game.  But this is undoubtedly true in practically every other sport as well.  Even in racing, many bettors back horses that they have chosen at random; and in, say, England or parts of Europe where off-track credit betting is allowed, it is possible to bet on horse races for years without ever seeing a horse.  So the lottery comparison is more than unfair to the countless football fans who never miss a game, who pride themselves on their deep knowledge of the different teams and players, and who try to put that knowledge to work for them by betting on the pools.

It is difficult to pinpoint the football pool’s first appearance as a public gamble.  In England, small groups of gamblers in offices and shops may well have been forecasting results and dividing the latter part of the 19th century.  Many people remember privately run pools prior to the 1914 war.  But the questionable legality of the enterprise got in the way, and it wasn’t until 1924 that a man named John Moores promoted the world’s first public postal pool with credit betting.  The total staked on the first coupon was just under five pounds.  In 1960, the latest year for which figures are available, John Moores’s firm, Littlewoods Ltd., collected the equivalent of $ 145, 600,000 in stake money and paid our $ 67,200,000 in prizes, $ 42,000,000 in tax, and $ 30,800, 000 in expenses.

In Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and many other countries, football is the “national sport.” In England it shares tha honor with cricket, which is also a favorite among such British Commonwealth nations as Australia, New Zealand, India, and the West Indies.  Cricket is an outdoor bat-and-ball game (derived from a 14th century game called club-ball or creag)  whose admirers view it as a sort of holy grail free of any taint of gambling.  But true aficionados know differently.  The 19th century English writer Mary Russell Mitford, in her English Life and Character, expresses the cricket purist’s sincere hatred for matches played “for money, hard money, between a certain number of gentlemen, and players, as they called-people who make a trade of that noble sport, and degrade it into an affair of betting, and hedgings, and cheating, it may be like sumo wrestling boxing or horse-racing…”

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