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Sports betting worldwide - statistics & facts

Sports betting is a type of gambling that refers to the activity of placing a wager on the outcome of a sporting event. Events on which wagers are made could be anything from more traditional activities like horse or dog racing to sports such as soccer and American football. Bets are typically made through bookmakers, also known as sportsbooks. These operate both as land-based establishments, for example, at casinos or betting shops, and online. The total amount of money wagered by bettors is known as a handle, while the amount of money earned by a sportsbook after paying out the winners is revenue.

The sports betting and lottery market size worldwide was over 200 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, though this decreased in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While this global market is large and lucrative, sports betting is still not legal everywhere. Not only that but regulations regarding sports betting differ depending on the country. Additionally, within the countries, gambling laws can also vary by state. For example, in the United States sports betting is legal at the federal level, however, regulations differ on a state-by-state basis.

Where is the biggest sports betting market in the world?

Since countries offering legal sports betting also offer many other types of gambling, it is often hard to definitively identify the market leader when it comes to sports betting alone. Of the leading gambling companies worldwide in 2020, the top company, Wynn Resorts, was based in the U.S., while four of the leading companies were based in Macao (an autonomous region on the south coast of China), and two were based in the United Kingdom. Although gambling markets are often based around casino and lottery games, the sports betting sector has been growing in popularity across the world. In 2019, the gross revenue from the Macao football sports lottery alone totaled 400 million Macao patacas. The same year, the total sports betting revenue in the U.S. reached over one and a half billion U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, the revenue from off-course betting in the UK reached just under two billion British pounds and the on-course sports betting revenue in the UK totaled around 14 million British pounds in 2020.

Which activities do sports bettors prefer to wager on?

The types of activities wagered on in sports betting markets is dependent on regional preferences. For example, American football is especially popular in the U.S., and it was the sport with the highest share of U.S. sports betting interest. In other countries, however, this was not the case. In Italy, where soccer is more popular, it was the sport with the highest amount wagered on. Meanwhile, in other areas such as the UK, a common activity for sports bettors to wager on is horse racing. In 2020, the majority of gross gambling yield of off course betting in Great Britain came from the races at over 135 million British pounds, followed by soccer.

Impact of the coronavirus on sports betting

With many professional sports leagues and events not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sports betting industry was hit hard. During a 2020 survey in the U.S. the majority of respondents noted that they were betting less since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Not only were sporting events paused but many brick-and-mortar establishments were closed to the public, making the need to digitalize sports betting more pressing. Luckily, the online market was already growing prior to the pandemic with the global online gambling market reaching nearly 60 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, which was forecast to almost double by 2023.

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