The Most Betted on Sports in the World Revealed

The Most Betted on Sports in the World Revealed

In the world of professional sports, where passion runs deep and the stakes are often amplified, sports betting companies provide a necessary avenue for those who want to add a little bit more interest to their viewing pleasure. The truth is that millions of humans are hard-wired to enjoy a wager, and often, it is the most popular sport with the largest audience that attracts the most wagers.


How big is the sports gambling market?

There are thousands of sports betting operators that stretch across language barriers and cultural differences and specialise in localised sports. For instance, betting markets in the UK will often tailor their advertising and promotional approach to favour popular sports betting markets such as horse racing or football.

If you took a trip across the pond, youโ€™d still be able to find these markets, but the predominant drivers of betting activity focus on the NFL and the NBA. Even closer to home in Ireland, Irish sports betting websites will focus on Gaelic football, hurling and horse racing. In each of these countries, the sports gambling market continues to grow.

While estimates vary because the data regarding sports betting stretches across many different companies and nations, itโ€™s widely considered that the industry will be worth over ยฃ1tn by 2030.

Sports betting still has plenty of scope to grow, and thereโ€™s a reason that so many big investment banks and hedge funds on Wall Street are putting their money where their mouth is and investing so extensively in the stock. Digital sports betting is still in its early stages in the US but given that itโ€™s the market with the most potential anywhere on the planet, letโ€™s take a look and see how their most betted on sports weigh up on a global measurement.


Biggest betting markets in the USA

You could break down the volume and size of sports betting markets state-by-state. Some of the numbers are intriguing and given the size of the country and the individual legislative requirements for each when it comes to sports betting, the top sports can vary wildly. For example, baseball betting is far more prevalent in New York than it is in Wyoming. However, if you collate all the data, the NFL sees the most gambling activity across all states combined.

Closely behind the NFL, the NBA also brings in a significant number of bettors. One of the fastest-growing markets in the USA is the football (soccer) betting market. Some analysts are under the impression that this growing trend in the US has led to soccer becoming one of the most betted on sports โ€” surpassing the NHL and closing some ground on basketball.

While football might not reach the popularity of American football in the USA, the growth continues to impress. The MLS has attracted some of the best players in the world over the last 15 years. When Messi jetted in and signed with Inter Miami, there was a considerable spike in the number of Americans tuning in to watch their domestic league and, subsequently, the number of people placing bets.


European sports betting markets

Unlike in the US, where a cluster of sports is leading the way but with no truly dominant force, Europeโ€™s gambling market is dominated by football betting activity. Russia is the most populous country in Europe, but they do not allow sports betting.

Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain make up the rest of the most populated countries, and in each of these countries, football is by far the most popular sport. The sport’s popularity is often reflected in the size of the betting market that underpins it.

Basketball, rugby and ice hockey also attract significant betting activity in mainland Europe and some areas of Scandinavia. However, itโ€™s not significant enough to swing the pendulum in their favour regarding the most betted sports in the world.


Markets in the rest of the world

Sports betting goes through a broad range of legality and legislative tests on an international scale. In Australasia, similar to Ireland, there are significant betting markets for rugby league, rugby union and domestic games like Aussie rules.

In Asia, gambling faces a much stricter set of legislation, with some of the biggest countries in Asia not allowing any form of sports betting on their shores. However, those countries that do allow it to drive a lot of traffic towards football betting markets. Japan, for instance, drives a lot of horse racing and motor racing betting, but their legal framework doesnโ€™t permit betting on all sports the way other countries do.

South America is slowly opening up to the idea of sports betting too. However, countries like Mexico have long had sports betting legislation that allows citizens to bet on their favourite sports, most notably football, boxing and wrestling. As of December 2023, Brazil allows its citizens to bet on sports, which will add more big numbers to the global football betting market, given that it is considered the global capital of football.


Football – The most betted on sport in the world

It shouldnโ€™t come as much of a shock that association football is the worldโ€™s number one gambling market. Propped up by huge gambling syndicates in Asia, a growing swell of bettors in the US and the forever reliable UK market, where football and betting are two of the main pillars of the weekend for millions of people up and down the country, the global audience for football is over 3 billion, with around half that number tuning in to watch the 2022 World Cup Final.

Due to this phenomenal demand, sports betting companies cater to this enormous interest. Football betting markets have a great deal of selection, with over 200 professional leagues globally and many international tournaments.

Thereโ€™s simply no end to whatโ€™s on offer, and given the demand, itโ€™s no surprise to see so many betting companies doing their utmost to accommodate it. Social media and the internet are awash with detailed blogs about betting and YouTube experts giving their tips for the weekend across a variety of European leagues.


The chasing pack

Cricket is the dominant sport in India, and although many states in India do not allow any form of gambling, sports betting is so widespread that it is difficult for lawmakers to keep on top of it. Over a billion Indians watch cricket, translating into an enormous betting market. However, itโ€™s also propped up by millions of bettors in the UK, South Africa and Australia.

If Indian legislators allow sports betting in the country and begin taxing it and allowing platforms to legitimately operate, it could even start closing the gap on football โ€” but football has a commanding lead, at least for now.

In third place, we have hockey, which benefits from a vast, popular audience across several continents. It is the national sport in Canada, which has a significant sports betting culture. In the US, it ranks within the top five most popular sports, meaning that billions of dollarsโ€™ worth of bets are placed annually. However, many countries with a colder climate and a predominantly winter sports schedule, like Sweden, Finland and Russia, all drive the global betting market for ice hockey.


Responsible gambling

Sports betting can fall into tighter legislation depending on where you are, and it’s always a wise idea to read up on this before you bet. For instance, the United Kingdom has strict criteria for sports betting advertisements and ensuring that problem gamblers are protected from potentially harmful behaviour. Although other nations may allow sports betting, they might not have the same procedures in place to protect people.

The two best things you can do to ensure your gambling doesnโ€™t get out of hand is to set a deposit limit and ensure youโ€™re only spending a minimal amount of time on sports betting apps per week. If you begin to feel you’re exceeding this, plenty of help is available online, or you can confide in a trusted member of your family.


Final thoughts

It can be hard to envisage just how big some of these sports betting markets are as they continue churning over significant activity. Thereโ€™s a direct parallel and correlation between the popularity of sports and how many people bet on it.

Ultimately, this is to be expected due to human psychology, and to put it simply, the more people watching a professional sport or game, the more likely they are to place a bet on it โ€” it truly is a numbers game.

Over the next decade or so, if you hear that cricket has surpassed football in popularity, although the chances are slim, you could probably bet that it will also become the most bet on sport. At this point, football is clearly the most betted on sport. Its global dominance as the world sport is helped along nicely by the colossal betting markets that help to generate interest continually.

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