Bowls Betting 1
The link between the sport of bowls and betting may not quite date right back to when Sir Francis Drake ignored the advancing Spanish Armada to finish his game on Plymouth Hoe, but it is certainly centuries old.
History does not record whether Drake had a flutter, but further north from the Devon coast, in what is regarded as the heartlands of crown green bowling in Lancashire and Yorkshire, a match has long not been considered a match without a bet.
However, where the flat green code is concerned betting has also proved popular, particularly in traditional strongholds such as Scotland, where in the former mining communities bowls is next only to horse and dog racing when it comes to punting.
While this interest is hardly a new innovation, it is highly significant that in the early years of the 21st century a revolution in bowls betting has taken place, especially in relation to the major televised competitions which attract most attention from the bookmakers and general public.
In 1997, the year 'new' Labour came to power, bowls saw its own 'new' order take over when the World Bowls Tour assumed control of the key events in the indoor calendar, which attract the most betting attention. One of their early initiatives was to reduce the length of matches from the best of five sets to the best of three sets with the third set merely a tiebreaker, which lasted just three ends.
Over the longer haul favourites usually held sway. However, since the change of format radical differences in results have been noted with lesser players able to win a set, particularly earlier in a game, which means they can then take their chance in what is virtually a sudden death shootout.
There is little doubt that backing outsiders, though not long-priced ones, has proved more profitable over the past five years and this should continue to be the case with television companies, who are known to have insisted on shorter games for viewing purposes, certain to stick to their guns in the immediate, and probably long-term, future.