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Betting on sports has become a billion dollar enterprise, not just in the United States, but all over the world. It is estimated that gamers bet over a trillion dollars, both legally and illegally, around the globe on sporting events.

Researchers on gambling believe that the market in the US is expected to explode in the next few years because of the Supreme Court decision in May that will allow states to make their own decisions regarding sports gambling. But which sports are most popular in the US market, and around the world? Here is a look at the most popular sports to wager on.

Sports Betting as a Percentage of Overall Gaming in Nevada

Michigan Sports-Betting BillWhile figures for the states that have recently begun single-sports game betting (New Jersey and Delaware) will not be measurable until 2019, Nevada, which until May was the only state that allowed single-sports betting, represents the trends in sports betting in the United States.

It is estimated that in Las Vegas alone in 2017, approximately $5 billion was wagered in sports. Although it has been legal to bet on sports in Nevada since 1949, researchers did not begin to track the amount of money wagered on sports until 1984, when gamblers spent about $880 million dollars on sports betting. The market has grown about 440% from 1984 to 2017. In addition, gaming research indicates that sports gaming has been increasing its market share in Nevada from nearly .7% in 1984 to 2.15% in 2017.

Types of Sports Bet on in Nevada and Percentages


Football gameAs noted earlier, betting on sports hit an all-time high in Nevada in 2017. However, the types of sports being bet on has changed over the years, and there are some interesting trends to take note of. Betting on American football, which includes both NCAA college football games and pro football games has been relatively unchanged in the last decade.

In 2017, 36% of money wagered by gamblers was bet on football, which is the lowest percentage recorded since 1992, the first year that Nevada began keeping track of the percentage breakdown in single-sport betting. Pundits have reasoned that part of the flat numbers in football may be due to the controversy over the National Anthem, which made many Americans turn away from the sport.


Bets on baseball represented 23% of overall single-sport betting, which is the highest rate since 2001. Researchers stated that the increase in baseball betting was due to competitive divisional races in many divisions in the MLB, as well as interesting playoff matchups.


Basketball’s share has been increasing since the 1980s. In 2017, over $1.48 billion was bet on basketball, which represents double the amount bet on the sport in Las Vegas in 2011. Researchers note that interest in the NBA and especially the NCAA has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, with increasing amounts of money wagered on the NCAA Basketball Tournament in March.

Other Sports

Vegas researchers lump other sports, such as horse racing, soccer and hockey into an “other” category. The “other” category represented 9% of the market share in 2017, which has doubled the percentage bet on these sports since the early 2000s.

Researchers note the growing interest in hockey with the addition of a pro team in Nevada in 2017, and the growing interest in Major League Soccer in the United States. This category is expected to be higher in 2018, because the Nevada Golden Knights hockey team made it to the Stanley Cup finals, and betting was expected to increase in soccer as well, due to the World Cup matches.

Sports Betting Around the World

In Europe, Asia, and Africa there is no contest when it comes to sports betting as a percentage of market share. Although it is difficult to determine overall market share, more money is bet on soccer worldwide than any other sport in the world. This is especially true this year, because the World Cup, the world championship of soccer held every 4 years, is happening this year in Russia.

It is estimated that this year, over $400 billion will be bet on soccer alone around the world, due in part to the sheer amount of money being bet on the World Cup this year.

In addition to soccer, tennis has shown an increasing amount of popularity with regard to betting, especially in Europe, and is estimated to have about a 15% market share. In Africa, horse racing is second to soccer in market share.

In Asia, the next highest market for sports betting is cricket, because it is played in several countries in Asia, and is a passion in India, which is seen as a growing sports betting market.

Interestingly, basketball is also seen as a growing sport for placing bets in both Europe and Asia. China has a booming market for basketball gaming, as the passion for basketball runs very deeply in China.

Basketball is also growing in Europe, as the European league has grown enough to attract American players, which adds additional recognition to a sport with considerable European talent as well. Basketball’s market share in Europe is estimated at about 10%, with a 15% market share in Asia.

Other Sports Gaming Markets

Sports-Betting BillOther games which are bet on in Europe and Asia will be unfamiliar to American bettors. Rugby, a sport that resembles and is the antecedent of American football, is bet on in both Australia and the United Kingdom. Snooker, which is a type of pool played in the United Kingdom and India, is also a popular sport to bet on.

Another popular sport is darts, which originated as a pub game in England, but now results in multi-million-dollar tournament play. Volleyball and handball are also popular sports to bet on in Europe. While volleyball is mostly played by women in the United States, there are both men’s and women’s teams in Europe.

Finally, squash and handball, which are played with a partner (squash) or alone (handball) are popular sports to bet on in Europe. It is estimated that the market share for other sports in Europe besides soccer, tennis and horse racing is about 15% overall market.

While the sports being wagered on differ around the world, there are some interesting trends to view. First, the number of people betting on American football continues to decline, even in the United States, and the NFL has so far not been able to spread interest in American football to other areas of the world in a meaningful way.

On the other hand, wagering in basketball continues to increase on a global scale, due to the success of leagues in Europe and Asia. Also, it’s worth noting that horse racing remains a popular sport to wager on. But the largest amount of wagering by far worldwide is on soccer, which continues to dominate the market in every other country in Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia.

In fact, the only place where soccer is not bet on heavily is the United States, because soccer was relatively late to enter the US market in terms of both professional sports teams and betting on the sport.

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Thomas McCoy was born in Bethesda, Maryland and studied finance at the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington D.C. before heading to New York and a job as a forex trader on Wall Street. Successful enough to launch his own, online forex trading platform, Thomas has long had a keen interest in the places where the worlds of finance and technology meet. As a prolific blogger, Thomas considers himself an expert on cryptocurrencies, casino asset restructuring, and emerging technologies set to change the way people do business.