10 Most Popular Sports to Bet on

Table of Contents

When was the last time you accessed a fantasy sports platform or a betting site to bet on a football game, an ice hockey fixture, or a boxing match? If you are reading this article, chances are that you have bet on your favorite sport at some point, if not regularly. Betting on sporting encounters as an activity has been around since ancient times, not just providing a pastime for fans but also as an excellent way to engage with sports/teams they love following.

In recent times, the proliferation of sports betting apps aided by a conducive technological & legal landscape has only led to a further surge in sports betting over the last decade, leading to an ever-growing market.

In the US in particular, this received a massive boost after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 was repealed, thus legalizing sports betting.

The size of the global sports betting market is pegged to reach an eye-watering USD 50 billion by the end of 2024. This, in turn, constitutes a third of the global gambling market consisting of lotteries, casinos, poker, etc., apart from sports betting. 

While it is tricky to draw out a definitive list of the most popular sports to bet on given geographical diversities, it is safe to say that sports that top global popularity charts generally top the list. Soccer, NFL, Horse Racing, Cricket, Baseball, Basketball, Tennis, Boxing, Motorsport, Golf & Rugby are some of these traditional sports, with new entrant eSports making waves in recent times.

Let's look at some of these sports in the next section.

1. Horse Racing

One of the most traditional sports in terms of betting legacy, horse racing combines the thrill of betting with a platform for cultural exchanges.

Races provided a meeting point for the elite of the society, and they could place bets while they hobnobbed with each other. Even today, with an annual revenue of over €100 billion, Horse Racing remains a popular betting outlet.

Japan, the UK, and Australia are currently thriving markets, with the US set to join them in the coming decade, thanks to a thriving racing industry.

2. Soccer 

Being the most popular global sport and with thriving soccer leagues in many countries, it is no surprise that soccer is on this list. With a short run-time of 90 mins/game but with multiple betting opportunities, the market is massive.

The English Premier League is the market leader in terms of revenue, followed by the La Liga (Spain) and the Serie A (Italy). By means of comparison, the EPL generated 68.5 billion euros in the 2020/21 season, followed by La Liga with 42.1 billion euros and the Serie A with 38.8 billion euros.

3. American Football (NFL) 

Soccer’s American cousin seems to have benefitted massively from the repeal of the PASPA, with betting revenues having quadrupled in the four years since 2019.

A significant number of NFL teams have at least 1 sponsor from the Sports Betting/ Fantasy Sports world, with popular brands such as Bet365, BetFred, and FanDuel entering the fray.  This brings in a total of $2.3 billion in additional revenue for the NFL, a game-changing number for the industry.

4. Cricket 

An Asian giant, Cricket offers multiple betting possibilities thanks to the long run-time of an average cricket game. The Indian subcontinent is at the forefront of cricket betting, with every one-day international cricket match bringing in approx. USD 200 million in betting revenue. Apart from the subcontinent, Cricket betting thrives in the UK, Australia, and South Africa. 

5. eSports 

The new kid on the block, eSports betting, refers to bets on competitive video gaming events. While already on the rise, eSports received a massive, unexpected boost during the pandemic. Thanks to the spread of high-speed internet and increased adoption from the younger generation, the projected revenue of this market is now set to reach US$2.5bn.

This is further slated to grow to US$3.3b by 2028 with a projected CAGR of 7.27%. The United States, along with China, remain market leaders here thanks to the burgeoning popularity of eSports in these regions. For bookmakers, this has also provided a unique challenge of adapting to the multiple formats, games, and technologies of eSports, failing which they run the risk of falling behind. 

6. Basketball 

A popular sport worldwide that is a sleeping giant when it comes to betting. It is particularly strong in the US, providing betting opportunities and generating significant revenue from its hot properties, such as the NBA and the NCAA (College basketball), amongst others.

In 2024, for example, the NBA is projected to rake in $167 million, an 11% increase from last season.

7. Tennis 

With the World Tennis Tour churning out a packed annual calendar of events and with Tennis matches providing a conducive format for in-play betting, betting firms are counting on the sport to take off as a solid option.

Thanks in particular to the in-play betting options such as game/set winner, tennis is now the third most popular sport to bet on. 

8. Boxing 

One of the old betting favorites, thanks to a personality cult and many famous rivalries, Boxing has since fallen off the charts a bit.

It still remains an active betting sport thanks to connoisseurs in the main Boxing geographies such as the US, Mexico, Philippines, and Cuba. 

9. Motorsports 

Motorsports, and in particular Formula 1 remains a fan favorite owing to the glitz and glamor associated with the races.

With a year-round calendar and with multiple betting opportunities such as winner, podium finish, etc., betting on F1 races remains vibrant. Betting apps such as 22Bet Sports and Betway are the best places to start.

10. Golf 

A sport with a niche following and a fairly packed PGA calendar, Golf presents multiple opportunities thanks to a host of betting-conducive formats.

Despite the niche, the numbers remain high as Golf contributes to about 8% of the total sports betting revenue in the United States, amounting to approx. $4.5 - $5 billion. It is no surprise, then, that the US is a runaway market leader here.

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