Despite occasionally being derided as a "pub sport", the popularity of darts has continued to rise over the last decade, and it is showing very few signs of abating. It is currently one of the most-watched sports in Europe, and although uptake in other areas has been significantly slower, audiences continue to grow year-on-year. Iconic throwers such as Michael Van Gerwen and Phil Taylor have played a starring role in this exponential rise in popularity but fundamentally,it is betting companies and the popularity of online gambling which have truly helped fund the sport's recent renaissance.
The relationship between the pair has always been evident. The sport's marquee event which takes place at Alexandra Palace in London is sponsored by one of the UK's biggest betting companies, and a number of other household names from the industry have followed suit, opting to associate themselves with competitions such as the Premier League and the World Matchplay.
Big sponsorship deals have enabled significant money to be ploughed into the sport, which has resulted in players such as Michael Van Gerwen taking home over £5 million in career earnings to date. Prize money has continued to rise in 2019, and with so much at stake, it is imperative that players are rarely seen having an off-day.
Bookmakers have evidently seen plenty of potential in the sport, and their investment appears to have been mutually beneficial for both parties. At the end of 2015, the sponsors of the World Darts Championship reported that over £10 million was wagered on the tournament by their customers, and that figure is highly unlikely to have plateaued over the last four years. A substantial increase in live in-play betting markets has also enabled more betting opportunities for punters. Darts fans now have multiple ways of placing a bet on the major tournaments, and the opportunities aren't just restricted to the PDC Tour.
This popularity has also infiltrated online casinos, with a number of darts-based slots also becoming permanent fixtures -Double Top Darts and Darts Heroes are two of the most popular examples. Players will often use one of a number of welcome bonuses to sample these exciting new games, and with a growing number of options, deciding which operator to choose is not a decision to be taken lightly. Those who wish to try one of the many darts-based slot games can learn more at new-casinos.uk, and find out which operator currently offers the biggest range of sports-themed slots, of which we see more and more each day.
As you can see, darts and iGaming of all kinds have become happy bedfellows over the last decade, and the relationship between the pair is likely to continue over the next few years. Fans relish the opportunity to wager on their favourite personalities in the sport, and the bookmakers are certainly taking full advantage of this. Darts has recently broken into the Asian market, and this would not have been possible without the funding provided by the gambling industry. The money has also helped fund a number of additional competitions at the junior level, as well as increase prize money in the women's game. At least two female players will qualify for the World Darts Championship later this year, and this another huge step forward for the sport. While there is still a long way to go, the funding provided by betting companies is noticeably helping fund the sport at all levels.
Although the pair are undoubtedly separate entities, they have become a formidable double-act, and the role of bookmakers in the success of darts should not be underestimated.
Some sceptics may suggest that the sport would struggle to survive without the gambling sector; interest in the personalities of the players could potentially be enough to sustain future engagement. The recent retirement of Raymond Van Barneveld may have been a blow for European darts, but there are plenty of up-and-coming superstars waiting to fill the void. Darts is a sport which requires skill, excitement, and plenty of drama, and the likes of Peter Wright, Gerwyn Price and the aforementioned Michael Van Gerwen all tend to help deliver this on a regular basis.
Darts has become a truly global game, and it's popularity - particularly in Europe and Asia - is remarkable. It continues to go from strength-to-strength, and may one day be able to cut all ties with the online betting industry. However, the pair are intrinsically linked, and thus far, it's proving to be a truly formidable partnership.