Bookies & Bookmaking Telecommunications

The long relationship between the huge underground gambling industry and innovation in various technologies has had
a fascinating history. Few realize how much gambling has been a major factor in the evolution of many technologies--often
as a result of its illegality. Just as many inventions over the centuries have been spawned by war and the pressure of
military competition, so, too, by competition between the gambling professional and the player and the contstant
hide-and-seek game with local and federal govenment agencies.

1906 drawing 1906 drawing 1906 drawing
A 1906 vision of the future of offshore bookmaking and stock trading by means
of the airplane and the wireless telegraph "...when ocean liners are properly equipped,"
two technologies that were envisioned to meet the need of rapid data from the racetrack.

Telecommunications, the printing press, security codes and weapons, mathematics and miniaturization--all have had improvements attributable to gambling. For example, some researchers have concluded that the main impetus for the development of the printing press was not the desire for books, but the desire for cheap playing card decks--printed in the two suit colors rather than laboriously hand-colored. The American census of 1900 was a landmark application for the beginning of the computer industry and IBM, but, also in 1913, horse racing tote boards emerged as another important application with their shaft adders, which are analogous to the CPUs of modern computers. (See Totalisators) In what was considered the most ambitious television experiment to date (June 1, 1932), the English Epson Derby was televised by a primitive mirror-drum television system by telephone wire to a theatre in London.

In respect to telecommunications, during World War II, it was reported that the illegal interstate horse race telephone wire service was, in some respects, more reliable technically and suffered less down-time than land links of the U. S. War Department.

After the war, the need for rapid, accurate communications of track odds continued. One solution was the use of a new sophisticated broadcast technology called SCA, which involved the use of FM radio station subcarrier frequencies. One example was Chicago's Newsplex service that was carried by radio staion WCLM. The FCC, under pressure by the Senator McClellan's Committee on Government Operations, soon put a stop to these services, which had proliferated in several cities in the early 1960s. In the early 1990s, racetrack results were available again by means of microwave computer or SCA data services, that could be viewed in an office with an FM data terminal or on the road with a remarkable handheld data terminal, the Sportrax. Of course, the cellular telephone completed the needed communications loop for transactions!

Photo of Signal receiver
front view: Signal Receiver, MFR: Data Broadcasting Corp.

Photo of Signal Receiver
rear view: Signal Receiver, MFR: Data Broadcasting Corp.

Photo of Sportrax
Microwave data receiver
MFR: DataSport Inc.

Teletracks, the first satellite-delivered, large-screen television display and wagering system for horse racing began operation in October 1979. Similar systems exist now at almost every race track and casino book in the world. In fact, the new controversial issue in telecommunications is the ease of international gambling transactions. Regulation is impossible without a major invasion of privacy, and the public policy debate is just beginning. Meanwhile, Internet-based casinos are being designed with the most advanced e-commerce software, and their proliferation throughout the world continues. (An excellent page of Website links on these topics is located at UNLV: Gaming--Selected Internet Resources)

Bookies & Bookmaking

Bookies & Bookmaking

Bookies & Bookmaking
19th century views

Bookies & Bookmaking

Bookies & Bookmaking
bookie games

Games: Horse Racing
Technology of Gambling
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gambling history

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H. Layer, all rights reserved
updated April 2006