Exploring the Most Popular Sports for Betting

popular sports

Sports betting is a massive industry with a generous selection of common sports you can bet on. According to statistics, sports betting accounts for nearly 40% of worldwide gambling, and continues growing thanks to technological improvements. While the sports betting industry will continue to develop, it’s important to know why it is popular, where it stands, and where it’s going.

Historical Context

Even as far back as 4000 BC, the ancient Egyptians bet on board games, dice, and even games of skill such as fencing or chariot racing. It was the beginning, but a lot has changed in the world of sports betting since.

Now, it focuses more on online wagering than placing bets in person. Moreover, the list of the most popular sports for betting has changed over the years.

The first online bet on sports in 1996 was a major step towards online betting.  In 2000, the first mobile bet was placed, and by 2002, in-play betting was added to the offer. The rest is history.

Even though a lot has changed in the global betting scene since the early 2000s, most of the changes in quality of life have been due to changes in the betting industry. Those include the introduction of betting sites and a limitless supply of legalised bookmakers. You can discover most of them and everything about sports betting on the BetZillion platform.

Those who decide to start betting on sports have plenty of options. Yet there’s a clear divide between niche sports and sports that people bet on most. Those vary depending on location, yet 7 sports stand out as the biggest and most popular.


Football remains the biggest and most popular sport around the globe with a huge fan base, so naturally, it’s also the most popular sport among punters, especially Europe’s top football leagues, such as the Premier League and LaLiga, which are the topmost of the football food chain.

American Football

American football is one of the most bet-on sports in the world. While it’s significantly more popular in the United States than in Europe, even European punters have placed more bets on the league. That’s largely thanks to international bookies making it easy to access sports markets, especially for the Super Bowl.


Basketball is easily one of the most popular sports in the world, and you can find teams competing in top-tier leagues and competitions all over the globe. It also helps that basketball is extremely well covered by all bookmakers, which indirectly helps basketball retain its status as one of the most widespread sports people like to place a bet on.

Horse Racing

It’s estimated that over 1.4 billion people worldwide bet and watch horse racing. A big reason why horse racing is so popular is that horse races are held in the USA, across Europe, England, Australia, Asia, and even Africa, where you can find major meetings such as the Melbourne Cup, Royal Ascot, Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup, Grand National, and the Kentucky Derby.


Tennis is played by millions of people worldwide, and even more people bet on it – especially when we talk about Grand Slam events such as Wimbledon, Australia Open, France Open, and the US Open.


Over 100 nations actively participate in international cricket tournaments such as the ICC World Cup, Indian Premier League (IPL) season, and more. While this number is still much smaller than football, cricket remains one of the biggest sports in the world. It is also, besides football, the most popular sport to bet on.


Esports has experienced an explosive rise in popularity, both among viewers and especially among online bettors. Nowadays, you can find an Esports event running almost daily. Every sportsbook will have some Esports betting markets on Counter-Strike, Dota 2, Valorant, and League of Legends, each with unique gameplay and betting options.

Criteria for Popularity

The list of sports that are the most popular for online sports betting and favourite among punters is typically dictated by the popularity of the sport among viewers. Audience size, media coverage, and number of events, leagues, seasons, and clubs involved in the sport also play into that – usually affected by local culture and historical roots.

Understanding that some sports and leagues are more popular than others is also important from a betting perspective since markets of more popular sports and leagues will always have higher liquidity.

Expert Insights and Industry Perspectives

The sports betting landscape is expected to transform in the next few years – driven mostly by new technologies, platforms, and changing regulations.

Due to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) advancements, sportsbooks can now handle more data to calculate more accurate odds. Betting operators such as MegaPari have already started using AI to automate data collection, although its experts believe that AI is here to collaborate with humans and not replace them.

Regulations are another thing to look out for as more countries recognize the potential benefits of legalised sports betting.


Betting on sport is embedded deep in human history, yet it wasn’t until the 18th century that it made its first steps into what it is today. Throughout the years, sports betting has changed drastically, and it continues to develop thanks to the introduction of new technologies.

While it’s impossible to know how the betting industry will look in the next decade, understanding where it stands now and which sports are the most popular can go a long way. Betting will remain highly popular and easily accessible so that anyone can explore the booming industry – however, remember to approach it wisely and practise responsible gambling.

Jimmy E
Writer & Tipster

Jimmy is our on-duty tipster and writer. His favorite sports are cricket, tennis, and basketball. If you’re looking for the best betting tips in the business, Jimmy’s your guy. His tips and events previews are among the most read at BetZillion.

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