If you live in the United Kingdom, then you’re likely to be aware or at least able to easily guess that the most popular sport for bettors to gamble on is football. It is, after all, highly popular as a sport in general, and with so many football matches taking place to bet on, it stands out at many sportsbooks. Yet what about other sports? Are there any others that British gamblers like to have a punt on more so than others?
And furthermore, what about other countries around the world? What are the most popular sports for betting on by country? Perhaps some people prefer wagering on tennis in Australia, while in Finland there could be more of a focus on ice hockey and in the USA, it will probably be something like American football or baseball. Yet it seems quite prominent to take a closer look at these different locations and find out what they have a preference for when it comes to placing sports bets.
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is a hotbed for sports betting activity, having one of the world’s most liberal gambling scenes. And in the UK, no other sports betting activity comes anywhere close to that experienced in relation to football. Of the total money spent in the UK on betting, football wagers account for around 47% of such. That’s almost half of all of the sports bets in the country.
The only other sport that makes up a double figure in the data is horse racing, which accounts for about 27%, with tennis, eSports, greyhound racing, cricket and golf making up the next in order of popularity, respectively.
It isn’t really a surprise that football exists as the country’s most popular sport for wagering on. And the likelihood is that it will be the most sought after in many countries around the world. UK gamblers tend to have a particular attraction to placing bets on their own favourite football team, with the Premier League seeing the largest amount of activity from bettors. The Champions League is another popular football tournament for UK bettors to get involved in.
Horse racing has been quite synonymous with gambling for many years, and it is one of the most historical sports for wagering on. It still stands out as a popular sport around the world for these purposes, and it’s also one of the only sports that can be wagered on 24/7. Betting on horse racing events has been estimated to equate to over €100 billion (£84.6 billion) every year globally. Yet, while it is popular in the United Kingdom, there is one other country that enjoys it for betting on in a much larger way.
The country of Japan has only recently become enamoured with betting on a wider range of sports. Yet horse racing betting has always been at the top of the agenda for many Japanese players. It is there that the biggest market for horse racing can be experienced, with the UK and Australia following on behind where its popularity is concerned.
As well as providing a seemingly compelling horse racing betting sector, Japanese bettors also place a focus on wagering on baseball, tennis, football, basketball, volleyball and combat. A surge in interest on betting is usually experienced for big global competitions, such as The Olympics or the FIFA World Cup. And as it happens, there has also been a surge in activity when it comes to betting on current affairs.
Of course, much of the sports betting in Japan has to take place on offshore platforms due to the pastime being banned via chapter 23 of the Criminal Code. Horse racing is one of the exceptions to the rule though, which is why it has such a high popularity with citizens there. Certain motor sports have also been granted an exception from the ban on sports betting protocol.
United States of America
Gambling in the USA is legally restricted, and sports betting was very much blocked throughout the country (with the exception of certain states). Yet in May 2018, the Supreme Court overruled the PASPA law that had been in place for many years, allowing individual states to introduce their own sports betting legislation, if they wished to. Once that ruling was made, several states including New Jersey and Rhode Island moved forward with legalising the activity within their own borders. Multiple others followed suit.
It is therefore difficult to monitor the popularity of different sports throughout the United States, as different states have different betting laws restricting certain things and methods of placing sports bets. Plus, some US states have chosen not to introduce laws at all, meaning that it remains completely restricted, which is true of areas like Alabama, California, Georgia, Kansas and Minnesota, to mention a few.
That being said, some of the most popular sports in the USA to bet on in general are, of course, the NFL and the NBA, with American football and basketball being popular sports in general. The MLB serves as another popular sports betting options, as does the NHL ice hockey sector. Yet at the same time as these well-known sports have gained the attention of sports bettors in the USA, so have two others. These are the college basketball and college football markets. Seasoned handicappers will shift their attention to college basketball once the standard football season has ended, with March Madness being a particular highlight of the year.
Both standard football and college football dominate the conversation in the American sporting world in the fall and winter months. College football doesn’t have quite as much grit and attention as the NFL does when it comes to popularity, but there are games that occur within the scene that have as much entertainment as its professional counterpart. The College Football Playoffs are generally a highlight in this sport.
Gambling is undertaken by many Australian residents, with over 80% of adults engaging in the activity in one way or another. This serves as the highest rate of gambling in the world, and when it comes to sports betting, Aussie Rules football tops the charts with bettors. Of course, being the most popular sport for spectators in Australia, it stands to reason that it would also be highly popular with gamblers, too. All states of The Land Down Under have a plethora of fans who are enamoured with the sport and betting on it.
And Aussie Rules has even grown in popularity internationally as well, with locations like New Zealand and China hosting games. Ideas have been thrown around for both Japan and the United States to do the same in the future, too. Other popular sports for betting on in Australia include, in order of popularity:
- Horse racing
- American football
- Motor Sports
Macau & Hong Kong (China)
Gambling in China is illegal under Chinese law, and it has been officially outlawed since 1949 when the Communist Party came to power. Yet citizens do participate in state-run lotteries and regularly travel to legal gambling centres found overseas or in special administrative regions of the country – Hong Kong and Macau – where gambling can take place.
Gambling in Macau has been legal since the 1850s, which is when the Portuguese government legalised the activity. It has gone on to become known as the Gambling Capital of the World or the Monte Carlo of the East. The largest portion of this activity takes place in casinos, but sports betting can also occur within the region. Betting can occur at the Macau Jockey Club as well as the Canidrome greyhound racing track. Horse racing mainly takes place every Tuesday and Saturday/Sunday at the racecourse on Taipa Island. Gambling on these events can occur at the course, off-course, via the internet, at Fast Access Terminals or over the telephone.
Horse racing and football stand out as being the most popular sports for betting on in Macau, with basketball also proving to be growing in popularity as well. Several highlights in the horse racing world, including the Macau Gold Cup and the Macau Derby, bring hordes of punters to their favoured sports betting platform. Where football betting is concerned in Macau, most attention focuses on the English Premier League. Teams like Liverpool and Manchester City have quite a significant presence in Asia, with matches also being televised every week.
Gambling was regulated in Hong Kong in 1977, thanks to The Gambling Ordinance. As it happens, the region generates the largest horse racing gambling turnover in the world, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which was founded in 1884, holds the monopoly on these wagers. Of course, falling in line with Macau, football has become a popular sport for betting on in Hong Kong, too.
Gambling in France currently holds legal status, with the minimum age for participation being reduced from 21 to 18 in 1987. Sports betting makes up a part of what is considered legal within the country, and this incorporates live betting, pool betting and fixed odds betting alongside. This includes online gambling activity, which was legalised in 2010 just before that year’s World Cup tournament. As a result, over 1.2 million accounts on French licenced sites were opened within the first month with €83 million (£70.1 million) being wagered on sports as a result.
Football exists as one of the top sports for gambling on in France, followed by rugby, tennis, horse racing and cycling. French players prefer to bet on the Ligue 1, Ligue 2, Six Nations Championship, French Open, Tour de France and Monaco Grand Prix events more so than anything else.
Gambling in Italy has been around for many centuries, and it has taken on many forms as well. Many casino games originate from the country or have been adapted to create today’s modern gambling options. Operators of betting in the country must have an Italian licence in order to offer their services legally and accepted Italian players, too.
Online sports betting has been legal since 2007, but licences for it only started to be issued three years after that. Football exists as the country’s most popular sport for betting on, as is the case in many other locations, while volleyball comes in second place with gamblers there. Such is the popularity of sports betting in Italy that the government increased taxes on it in 2020/21 to offset the negative effects experienced by COVID-19. In doing so, it looked to raise around €90 million (£76.1 million) by the end of 2021.
While online casino gambling in Germany was only made legal in 2021, sports betting has been around for a longer period of time in legal form. Yet different German states interpreted the laws differently, and this led to them being able to provide their own gambling regulations from state to state. By 2013, only online lottery, bingo and sportsbooks were considered legal internet gambling opportunities.
Regardless of whether sports betting is offered in betting shops or online, operators need an official licence for it. This exists as the most popular form of gambling in Germany after the lottery, with a special focus being placed on football betting, as is to be expected. Of course, Germany has some of the best football teams in the world, so it stands to reason that bettors would latch onto this and get involved in wagering on them. Thousands of betting shops can be found across the country to cater to the demand for betting odds, with bookmakers like Tipico and Bet3000 being popular options to use. Little else comes close to football in terms of popularity for betting in Germany.
Sweden sits at the top of the European continent alongside Norway and Finland, and most of the main forms of gambling are legal within the country. Svenska Spel had quite the monopoly over gambling options for a long time, and it still operates the country’s National Lottery to this day. Where sports betting is concerned, this is still dominated by Svenska Spel, although it hasn’t been a monopoly since 2019.
The favourite sport for Swedish bettors to wager on is also football. Horse racing betting also used to be highly popular in the country, which is under a monopoly of Trac och Gallopp. Yet today, it has experienced quite the decline in people looking to wager on it.