When the World Cup rolls around, the amount of money bet on football as a sport hits the tens if not hundreds of million mark worldwide. If Wimbledon is on, bets placed on tennis as a sport go through the roof, whilst it’s a similar story for horse racing during Cheltenham Festival week or when the Grand National comes around. At the same time, there is not such a burst of interest in the betting markets when the Rugby World Cup is being played or the Ashes series is dominating cricket.
While it would be untrue to suggest that people don’t bet on the likes of cricket or rugby, it is certainly the case that some sports take far fewer wagers in general than others. Why is that the case? Why would someone that loves cricket not bet on it in the same way that a football fanatic tends to engage in betting? Is it pertly down to the different demographics that tend to watch various sports, or is there something more to the reasoning behind people not placing bets on certain sports?
The Sports That People Play Are Bet On More
The first thing that is interesting to note is that the sports that are the most popular to bet on are also the ones that are, generally speaking, easier to play. If you were to buy a football from a shop and head to the park, you could easily find other like-minded people who would happily kick it around with you. The basic rules aren’t overly complicated, with pretty much everyone knowing how the game works and what they need to do in order to enjoy a game.
Similarly, give someone a tennis racket and ball and put them on a court with a friend and they’ll soon start hitting the ball back and forth. They might not be very good or even understand the rules in their entirety, but they’ll at least figure out how they’re supposed to play the game in its most basic sense. Whilst few people know how to ride a horse, they can quickly get their heads around the notion that they want their chosen horse to win its race and therefore cheer it on with gusto when an event gets underway.
When it comes to rugby, however, the game can seem impenetrable to people that have never played it or watched it. Sure, you can get that the two teams are trying to get the ball to the opposite end of the pitch, but why do they sometimes kick it? How come they line up when it goes out for a throw? What’s the deal with the H-shaped posts? Given the fact that it’s much more difficult to head to the park and start a game of rugby than it is to do the same with football, it’s little wonder fewer people enjoy it as a sport.
You could make the same argument over both cricket and golf, which might well have simple enough concepts dictating how they work but that simply aren’t that easy to get into. Imagine explaining to the uninitiated what silly mid-off is, or why a driver doesn’t need a car. Though both sports are great fun and popular in their own right, they’re much more difficult to get into and watch, understanding what it is that you’re experiencing, than the likes of football, tennis and horse racing.
Those That Understand A Sport Will Bet On It
The reality is that betting is something that you shouldn’t engage in casually. In order to put yourself in the best position to win a wager, you want to ensure that you understand what it is that you’re betting on. Whilst clueless people will win a bet from time to time and those extremely knowledgeable will definitely lose their wagers on occasion, it’s still most commonly the case that those that understand a sport are better placed to have a winning bet than those that don’t have a clue.
Consequently, it’s hardly a surprise that the more popular a sport is, the more likely it is that an increased number of people will place a bet on it. Families will get together to watch World Cup matches or the final of Wimbledon. Workplaces will run sweepstakes on the Grand National. Meanwhile, the Ashes can pass without comment from most people and few will even know that the British Open has taken place. It is simple maths that tells us that betting will be increased for the most popular of sports.
Nielsen’s Sports Fan Insights suggests that there are 12 million rugby fans in the United Kingdom, which isn’t a disappointing figure in and of itself. When you consider that that makes it the sixth more popular sport in the country, though, you can start to understand why it isn’t as popular with bettors as other events. You can see a similar situation with eSports, which are incredibly popular in the Asian market but much less so in the UK, boasting a much healthier betting market there compared to here.
There’s certainly an argument that the different demographics in play for various sports might be part of the reason why some are bet on less than others. It has long been the case that poorer neighbourhoods tend to see more money spent on betting than wealthier ones. That is not to say that rich people don’t gamble or that poor people spend all of their money in the bookmakers, but it is nevertheless true that those from a less wealthy background are more likely to engage in betting than those with money.
As a result, it is perhaps not all that surprising that sports that appeal to a less-well-off demographic tend to have more money spent on them by gamblers. Football is top of that list, having once been described as being a game that was played by gentleman and watched by thugs, whereas rugby was played by thugs and watched by gentlemen. Whilst this outdated view is clearly no longer valid, it is worth pointing out that football is still considered to be a working class sport.
The argument falls down a little when you consider that horse racing has a very specific demographic and tennis isn’t exactly a paupers game, but it’s still the case that the most popular sports for bettors are also the most easily watched and understood. It will be interesting to see if the likes of cricket begins to see a rise in punters betting on it with the launch of the Hundred, which has been designed and created to appeal to a much wider audience. That might be the thing that proves the point.