Most Popular Sports to Bet on in USA and Globally

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Soccer Betting. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Sports betting is a multi-billion-dollar global industry, with some sports being more popular than others when it comes to punter preferences.

The sports betting market segment is one of the most lucrative branches of the overall gambling industry, pulling in billions of dollars annually.  In fact, it is estimated that punters wager over a trillion dollars each year globally, both on legal and illegal games.  With the recent US Supreme Court decision to allow each state to regulate its sports betting autonomously, the local betting industry is expected to explode over the next few years.

But what are the most popular sports to bet on in the US, and how does this compare with global wagering preferences?

Sports Betting Types in Nevada

As the state with the longest tradition of gambling, Nevada has been the forerunner and current benchmark for both gambling and betting in the US.  However, the types of sports betting have changed here over the years, with new trends taking shape. 

Football

Betting on American football, including college and professional league football games, has remained relatively unchanged over the last decade.  Overall, about a third of money wagered by sports bettors is placed on football. However, a recent controversy over the US national anthem saw a drop in the numbers and made many locals turn away from the sport.

Basketball

Basketball’s betting share has been increasing since the 1980s. In Las Vegas alone, the betted amount has doubled over the past decade. Researchers note that interest in the NCAA and the NBA has amplified dramatically over the last ten years, with notably increased amounts of money bet on the NCAA Basketball Tournament each March.

Baseball

Bets on baseball represent approximately a quarter of all single-event sports bets. Researchers stated that the popularity of baseball betting is the result of competitive divisional races in many MLB divisions, as well as exciting playoff matchups.

Other Sports

Vegas researchers categorised other sports, such as hockey, horse racing, and soccer into the “other” category. The “other” category represents about ten per cent of the market share.  Researchers note the growing interest in Major League Soccer, as well as hockey, with the addition of a pro team in Nevada.

Sports Betting Around the World

In Europe, Asia, and Africa, there’s no consent when it comes to sports wagering as a percentage of the market share. Although it is challenging to determine the overall market share, more money is betted on soccer globally than any other sport. This is especially true during those years when the FIFA World Cup, the world soccer championship held every four years, takes place.

It is estimated that next year, over US$450 billion will be bet on soccer around the world, due in part to the FIFA World Cup taking place in Qatar.  In addition to soccer, tennis has shown growing popularity amongst sports bettors, especially in Europe, and is currently estimated to hold about 15 per cent of the market. In Africa, horse racing is second to soccer in terms of market share.

The second highest sports betting market in Asia is cricket because it is played in several Asian countries and is a passion in India, an enormous sports betting market. Interestingly, basketball has also emerged as a sport with growing popularity for betting in Europe and Asia. China has a booming basketball market, and the passion for the sport runs deeply there.

Basketball is also widespread in Europe, with the European league established enough to attract American players.  This adds additional recognition to a sport that has got considerable European talent as well. Basketball’s sports betting market share in Europe is estimated at around ten per cent, with a fifteen per cent market share in Asia.

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