In the modern era, there are all sorts of ways to place a bet. Whilst physical bookmakers might be losing a little bit of their lustre in the eyes of the youth, they remain popular with people of a certain age. That is because they allow you to bet in the old-fashioned way, whereby you would take the time to pour over the various options and ensure that you’ve done your research correctly. They also allow for a sense of custom, filling in the coupons and having a physical copy of the bet that you have placed. It is a tradition that many people like to engage in, though fewer than in the past.
That is largely thanks to the fact that the internet came along, allowing people to place their bets online without ever needing to leave the comfort of their home. When mobile apps came along, that increased the ability to place a bet at any time, anywhere. The same things is also why telephone betting has become much less common than it used to be. Rather than needing to buy a newspaper or have someone read out the odds to you after you’ve called up, you can just have a look at all of the available markets and bet online. The question is, is telephone betting still a thing?
The Origin of Telephone Betting
In order to understand the history of telephone betting, you need to understand the history of gambling itself. We don’t necessarily mean the very first bets, which likely date back to the very beginning of man, but rather of what we understand modern betting to be. In the 1790s, Harry Ogden set up a pitch at Newmarket Racecourse in order to allow him to offer people odds on the horses that were running that day. He was one of the first people to build a margin into the prices that he offered, ensuring a tidy sum for himself irrespective of the result in the race.
Gambling has never been the same since, with the need to licence and legalise it soon becoming apparent. The 1845 Gaming Act looked to discourage betting by making bets unenforceable by law. Another Act eight years later made betting houses illegal, essentially meaning that the only legal betting that could take place was with bookmakers based on actual racecourses. This, of course, meant that it was largely limited to the upper classes, which remained the case until greyhound racing came to the United Kingdom in the 1920s.
It soon got to the point that there was a general acceptance that there was no way to stop people from placing bets, so the more sensible thing was to allow them to do it legally in a manner that the British government could make money from. So, it was that the Betting & Gaming Act of 1960 came to be, legalising high street betting shops. Whilst they weren’t the most hospitable of places, they did at least allow anyone and everyone to place a bet on something, as long as the bookie in question was offering odds on it. No longer was it only the aristocracy who could place bets regularly.
The Rise in Telephone Betting
Alongside these new high street betting shops came another way to place your wagers: over the telephone. The first telephone betting companies came into existence during the 1960s, not long after the very notion of placing bets in person without being at a racecourse began to take hold. The reason for the rise of telephone betting was simple enough: in spite of the existence of betting shops on the high street, many people still found it difficult to get to them and others didn’t enjoy the experience. There needed to be a convenient alternative, which telephone betting offered.
It was initially quite slow to catch on. Many people preferred heading to the betting shop if they could, finding it difficult to understand how you could place a bet over the phone and not trusting the technology to make financial decisions that way. Over the years that followed, however, the technology improved and more and more people got access to telephones. As a result, being able to place a bet by dialling a number become far more popular, with the ability to bet over the phone becoming common place with most bookies by the 1980s.
These telephone betting services grew in popularity year-on-year, so that by the 1990s it had reached its peak. That continued into the 2000s, with the service becoming so popular that the majority of bookmakers had specialised telephone betting teams in order to cope with the demand. People could call up and place a wager around the clock, with the system being considered a convenient way of placing a bet without needing to head down to a betting shop or put your trust in newly developing websites, which no one was quite sure about early on.
The Decline of Telephone Betting
By the mid-2000s, people were becoming more and more used to the internet and what it offered. The ability to place a bet online was something that was prevalent, given the fact that a lot of the biggest bookmakers were launching their own websites. This meant that there was something else that offered that same 24/7 convenience as telephone betting, but without the need to actually speak to someone. You didn’t need to wait on hold for someone to become available, nor was there a need for them to talk you through the odds on offer at the time.
The more popular online betting became, the more the biggest bookmakers began to shift away from their telephone betting services and started to concentrate on getting the most out of their websites. When it become clear that online betting was the future, the majority of bookies decided that that was where their investment should be, resulting in many companies closing down their telephone betting altogether. It was a needless expense that a lot of bookmakers didn’t want to make, whilst it was also a lot less convenient and interesting for the punters.
How Telephone Betting Works
Now that we know where telephone betting came from, it is worth considering how it actually works. A lot of the big companies do still offer telephone betting as a service, with a number of independent operators also in existence. Depending on the size of the company in question, the telephone line might only be open for a set period of hours per day. This might be something like 9.30am until 9.30pm, offering plenty of opportunities to place your bet during daytime hours. If you’re hoping to place a bet over the phone, you’ll need to do the following:
- Have an account
- State your name clearly
- Give the operator your account number in full
- Make sure that you are clear when you give the details of your bet
- Ensure that both the bet and the stake amount are read back to you
Those companies that offer telephone betting as a service tend to ensure that all calls are recorded by a computerised system. This ensures protection of both the player and the person taking the call, given that any claims of a misrepresented bet can be listened back to by both parties in order to ensure that everyone agrees as to what happened. It is a good way of making sure that you feel comfortable placing a bet when you can’t actually see what your staking your money on.
How Payments Work
Nowadays, bookmakers are not allowed to take deposits using credit cards, so the majority of wagers are placed using debit cards. Companies will usually obtain the authorisation necessary to place all bets at the time that a wager is accepted. Of course, sometimes the reality is the amount of time needed to gain authorisation before an event gets underway is too short. When this happens, you will be told whether or not your bet has been accepted as soon as the bookmaker knows the outcome of their attempt to get authorisation from your bank or card holder.
If your bank chooses to decline your card purchase for whatever reason, the bet that you’ve attempted to place will not be accepted. Companies will usually try to get into touch with you to let you know that, but if they can’t then there isn’t anything that can be done. If your bet is a winner, the winnings will be credited to your bank using the details that the company in question has for you. As with online betting sites and physical bookmakers, telephone betting sites can refuse to accept your wager for any reason they deem and there is nothing you can do about it.
It is worth bearing in mind that, in order to make it worth their while, some bookmakers that offer telephone betting may have a minimum stake per call amount in place. This means that the total bets you place during a call will need to have combined stakes of over, say, £10 in order to be accepted. You can do that as one bet of £100, for example, or ten bets of £1, as long as the total amount you’ve bet adds up to £10 or more. If you’re concerned about bets not being accepted became authorisation isn’t achieved in time, you can have an amount of money on account with certain bookies.
The Future of Telephone Betting
What does the future hold for telephone betting? It is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, you would be forgiven for thinking that the advent of online gambling would’ve killed off the telephone betting industry altogether. On the other, the very fact that it still exists is suggestive of a part of the industry that isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. People can choose to place wagers however they see fit and gambling companies are always going to want to give them as many options and opportunities to do so as they can. As long as there are telephone bettors, there will be telephone betting.
The reality is, though, that most people who engage in telephone betting will be older in nature. It is something that people began engaging with in the 1960s, started doing more in the 1970s and were fully on-board with by the 1980s. Those old enough to place bets at that time will now be heading into their twilight years, meaning that there will be significantly less demand on telephone betting systems the more that time passes. When it starts to cost bookies more than they make in order to have a telephone betting option, that is when they will start to shut the service down.
The reality is that we are more likely to engage in betting online, not less. The biggest companies in the world, such as Facebook owners, Meta, would like to get us to the point where we all but exist online. The notion of placing wagers over the phone will feel extremely old-fashioned, so it is almost certainly going to be the case that it will die out as a method placing bets. That being said, if trust in betting online were to evaporate for some reason then it is easy to see why people might return to the world of telephone betting. For now, it exists as an option, with the future not looking particularly bright for the telephone betting fans.