It’s a question with an obvious answer, right? There’s of course the ‘big ones’, the inventions that any company could stand up and say they wouldn’t be where they are without them – the internet, the computer, those spongey arm rests you put underneath your keyboard to eliminate wrist strain.
But what about the forgotten pieces of industry history that we seem to forget and which are relatively new in the realms of technology? For example, here at ICS-digital, we specialise in dealing with sports betting and online casino clients. So, join us as we delve into the world of inventive intricacies across these two sectors that make up our business.
Bookies and bettors
The first bookmaker in the United Kingdom was opened in the 1790s in Suffolk, by Harry Ogden. Before Harry opened his doors on Newmarket Heath Racetrack, betting on the horses was reserved mainly for those rich enough to afford to place large wagers on the outcomes of entire events. With the introduction of the high-street bookie, odds were starting to be given on individual races and horses, allowing for people in the working class to place smaller, more manageable bets.
Although not technically ‘on the record’, with authorities constantly at his heels, Ogden was not a permanent resident in any track in particular. Instead, he spent most of his time operating out of different venues. However, he definitely started something, and this betting tradition seemed to grab a lot of people’s attention, with unofficial bookmakers setting up shop throughout the country. Some of this attention, however, was not necessarily welcome, as, in 1845, The Gaming Act was introduced by the government. It stipulated that only bets taken at the racetrack were deemed legal.
You could argue that this was down to the fact that this once-upper-class tradition had begun to be ‘taken over’ by the Proletariat, and there were those who wanted the races to retain some sort of ‘class’. This is where we run into the period of history you may all be very familiar with, with backstreet bookies popping up all over the place, in people’s kitchens, in the backs of vans; the majority of which, if managed correctly, made some pretty hefty profits – very ‘Peaky Blinders’-esque.
It wouldn’t be until over a hundred years after The Gaming Act was passed, that the UK would see its first brick-and-mortar bookmakers open up in the 1960s, outside of the track. From there, betting wasn’t limited to hooves and hounds, this move opened up the market to different types of sports betting, such as football, cricket, and rugby. Online betting sites were then introduced in 1998 and, since then, the market has expanded exponentially, with bettors being able to place wagers on everything, from Presidential campaigns to eSports tournaments. A long way from Harry’s back-handed betting slips on Newmarket Heath Racetrack.
More than a gimmick: slots and casinos
We’re all familiar with the fact that gambling as a concept originated somewhere in Ancient China, Egypt, Greece, the list goes on (pick one), and the first gambling houses appeared in Europe, mainly Italy, sometime in the 17th century. Gambling games spread throughout the world quite rapidly once introduced to mainland Europe. Mainly played as games to pass the time aboard ships voyaging to the ‘New World’, the now-United States of America had soon scooped up classic games like roulette and rudimentary versions of poker.
Jump forward, I don’t know, a long time, and people like Sittman and Pitt were popping out mechanised gambling machines all over the place, which inspired Charles Fey to create the first-ever ‘Liberty Bell Slot Machine’ in 1898. Not long after that, in 1976, (well, it was 78 years later – an arguably miniscule amount of time in relation to the speck on the universe’s timeline that is human history) the first video slot was invented. The slots included all those lovely iconic bells (literally) and whistles, cherries, 7s and the lot, thrown in for good measure.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that online casinos started to develop in all corners of the World Wide Web (big thanks to Tim Berners-Lee for that one, big help), and sites began to curate huge libraries of colourful themed slots, the likes of which Charles Fey wouldn’t have even dreamt of. As a side note, it’s hard to believe that Berners-Lee, the creator of perhaps the biggest invention we have to be thankful for here at ICS, is only 64 years old? He wasn’t even 30 when he first breached the idea of the World Wide Web on January 1, 1983, which is a wake up call if I ever heard one.
Anyway, thanks, Tim for… everything?