I was recently discussing an upcoming vacation with my wife, and she joked that we should stop into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame.
It caused me to pause for a minute because I realized that I didn’t know a single thing about the Sports Betting Hall of Fame. I wasn’t even sure if one existed.
The Sports Betting Hall of Fame is real (sort of), and I’m here to tell you everything you need to know.
What About Sports Betting?
Baseball has Cooperstown, NY. Professional football has Canton, OH. Even bowling has Arlington, TX. Sports Betting has SBC.
SBC is short for Sports Betting Community, a company dedicated to promoting and furthering the betting and gaming industry’s agenda.
SBC functions primarily as a news, media, and events company. Many of their events draw industry leaders and pundits from all over the world.
In 2016, SBC established the Sports Betting Hall of Fame. The Sports Betting Hall of Fame is more of a Hall of Fame in spirit.
Suppose you’re looking to load up the SUV with the family and a cooler full of snacks to make a cross country trek to visit the hall and soak in the history of the discipline. You’re going to need to use your imagination.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to move from your seat to enjoy the majesty and history within the halls. There is no physical hall of fame for fans and enthusiasts to flock to as they do in Cooperstown.
You may be confused, I know I was. I spent hours learning all I could about the hall of fame. My brain understood that it didn’t physically exist, but I couldn’t grasp that it wasn’t an actual place.
Surely, there had to be a wall or something. As my wife pointed out, that would be a wall of fame.
What Is the Function of the Sports Betting Hall of Fame?
The hall of fame serves to recognize those people in the sports betting industry that have given mightily to the industry throughout their careers. And to reward them with a legacy that will last long beyond their years in sports betting.
I consider the Sports Betting Hall of Fame more of a history of sports betting. It reminds me of the famous Hollywood stars, without any form of physical monument.
Nevertheless, it’s nice to see the industry get to the point of legitimacy where a hall of fame is warranted.
How Does Someone Gain Entry?
There are several ways in which one may contribute to sports betting and end up in the Hall of Fame. Some of the things considered by the selection committee are the following:
- Promote the general public’s knowledge of sports betting as a respected member of the business world.
- Provide changes in process that dramatically improves sports betting methods or the products offered to gamblers.
- Introducing cutting-edge marketing practices or consumables.
- Having had a vital position in furthering the public’s awareness of the critical role sports betting plays in the economy.
- Having a long and distinguished career in the sports betting industry.
The committee formed by SBC then considers all applicants meeting these criteria to create their induction class. However, you won’t see some of the names you’d expect.
Who Makes the Cut?
Another Hall of Fames seems to primarily focus on the players. Leaving those on the sidelines or in the luxury boxes to play ancillary roles.
This fact is not the case for the Sports Betting Hall of Fame. In fact, the only inductee primarily for their efforts as a sports bettor is a gentleman by the name of Jukka Honkavaara.
If Jukka sounded like a familiar name, it’s because he placed the first online sports bet back in 1996. His $50 wager on Tottenham Hotspur to beat Hereford United propelled Jukka Honkavaara into the hall of fame.
He sits quietly in the corner as the sole inductee based on his actual sports betting.
Scour the list of his fellow hall of farmers, and you’re going to see titles like CEO, Chairman, and even governor. That’s right, former New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie was once inducted into the 2019 class hall.
It seems the industry business leaders are far more sought after for the hall of fame than the sports bettors themselves. Let’s take a look at the inductees.
The inaugural class of the Sports Betting Hall of Fame was a small affair. It featured only three inductees, but these three have no doubt left their mark on sports betting.
Carsten Koerl: Koerl entered as the Founder and CEO of Sports Radar AG. Sports Radar AG holds a special place in the industry, combining its efforts in the media, sports, and sports betting facts. The company quickly rose to a position as a worldwide leader in providing sports data.
Mark Blandford: The Founder of Sportingbet got into the bookmaking business nearly 40 years ago and built not 1 but 2 successful betting shop chains. Sportingbet was Blandford’s answer to the boom of online sports betting and was wildly successful in its own right.
Howard Chisholm: Howard Chisolm is among the founders of the Bookmakers Technology Consortium. Serving as Director for BTC, he helped provide IT support to small independent bookmakers in the UK. Chisholm’s resume also includes Managing Director of Chisholm Bookmakers, a small family business operating over 40 betting shops in England.
The 2017 class of the Sports Betting Hall of Fame saw three more individuals recognized for their efforts.
Paris Smith: As the CEO of Pinnacle, an offshore betting company, Smith shifted focus away from North America and found vast growth opportunities in Asia and Europe.
Vigen Badalyan: Vigen is Founder and CEO of BetConstruct. The company based in London offers services in over a dozen countries. The company has a full range of sports betting solutions ranging from betting shops to comprehensive sportsbooks, both online and land-based, and even a real money casino.
Fred Done: The founder of Betfred has over 50 years in the sports betting industry under his belt. Betfred has grown from a small family business to a juggernaut in the sports betting industry. Betfred now operates more than 1,700 betting shops.
The 2018 inductees to the hall of fame are as follows:
- Fabio Schiavolin – CEO at Snaitech S.P.A.
- Pontus Lindwall – CEO Betsson AB
- Warwick Bartlett – CEO Global Betting and Gaming Consultants
- Norbert Teufelberger – Co-Founder Bwin
- Constantinos Antonopoulos – Vice-Chairman Intralot
As you can see from the first three HOF classes, there seems to be a common theme. You’ll see more CEOs than sports bettors.
2019 saw more people go into the Sports Betting HOF than ever before. Here are the individuals that made the cut for 2019:
- John Anderson – Former CEO 888 Holdings plc
- Armin Sageder – Founder BGT and PaySafeCard
- John Boyle – Founder and Chairman BoyleSports
- Richard Flint – Former CEO Sky Betting and Gaming
- Jukka Honkavaara – Placed 1st Online Sports Bet
- Dennis Drazin – Attorney and CEO Monmouth Park
- Denise Coates – Founder and CEO bet365
- Art Manteris – VP Race and Sportsbook Operations Station Casinos LLC
- Chris Christie – Former Governor New Jersey
Initially, I was surprised to see Governor Chris Christie as an inductee. However, Christie was instrumental in challenging the federal ban on sports betting. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Christie’s seven year battle for the matter of state’s rights, we may not have any legal sports betting in the United States.
The 2020 Class will see 5 more members inducted into the HOF. Here are the lucky 5 for this year:
- Victor Salerno – President US Bookmaking
- Raymond Lesniak – Former Senator New Jersey
- Sara Slane – Former American Gaming Association Sr VP
- Jay Rood – COO Bet.Works
- Roxy Roxborough – Famous Las Vegas Oddsmaker
It’s refreshing to see the HOF diversify and mix in a COO among the Founders and CEOs. I kid, but the induction of the legendary Roxy Roxborough should definitely lend some credibility to the Sports Betting Hall of Fame in the hearts and minds of sports bettors.
When I began my quest to learn more about the Sports Betting Hall of Fame, I expected to see names like Billy Walters, Anthony Bloom, and perhaps even Benjamin Patz a.k.a. Parlay Patz.
That doesn’t seem to be the way the hall is headed, and with the legal troubles of Walters and Patz, they may never see the Sports Betting Hall of Fame. For the ones that have been recognized, it’s undoubtedly a distinguished honor.
Maybe one day we’ll be able to load up the family and head to Atlantic City or Las Vegas to stroll the halls ourselves.