Which sports attract the biggest betting spends in Britain?
February 28th, 2023, Oliver Rowe

Which sports attract the biggest betting spends in Britain?

The lottery aside, sports is perhaps the most lucrative gambling vertical in the UK. For reference, nearly two-fifths of online UK gamblers spend over £5 on sports bets and fantasy sports each month (49%), shows Global Gambling Profiles data. This is significantly higher than the share of those who spend at least £5 each month on other categories of gambling like slots (25%), bingo (18%) and casino games (17%).

Online gamblers in this piece refer to those who have engaged in any form of online gambling other than the Lottery in the past 30 days.

But which are the sports attracting the biggest spenders? By analysing the data on monthly spend by the sports that gamblers say they have bet on in the last year, we can investigate this topic in depth.

Interestingly, football and horse-racing, which are the two-most popular sports that UK online gamblers bet on, tend to attract the lowest share of high spenders. Only 7% of those who bet on football and 8% of those who bet on horse racing say they spend over £100 monthly on sports bets. By comparison, a markedly higher proportion of those who bet on other popular betting sports like cricket (18%), tennis (16%), golf (14%), rugby union (14%) and boxing (12%) say they spend over 200 quid monthly.

But to put these numbers in perspective, it is worth noting that football and horse racing are streets ahead in terms of overall bettors attracted, compared even to other popular betting sports. For example, seven in ten UK sports bettors say they have bet on football in the last 12 months, which is seven times the share that have bet on rugby union (10%) or cricket (10%). Horse racing (55%) is the second most popular betting sport overall, well ahead of third-placed golf (15%). Boxing (14%) and tennis (13%) are placed fourth and fifth ahead of cricket and rugby.

The monthly betting spend, and overall volume of bettors, need to be considered in context of each other when sportsbooks tailor their strategies for different sports.

It is likely that football and horse racing attracts a much smaller share of high-spending bettors overall because casual gamblers are more drawn to these sports than others.

While less popular overall, American sports leagues tend to draw an even higher share of high-bet spenders. Roughly a fifth of those who bet on the MLB (20%), NHL (20%) and the NBA (22%) spend over £100 monthly on sports and fantasy sports bets. One in seven (15%) of NFL bettors, which is the most popular of the American leagues in terms of number of bettors, spend over £100 monthly.

We tried to examine whether the share of higher-bet spenders correlates to the economic background of the betting group but found no link. For example, even though cricket attracts a significantly higher share of £100+ sports bet spenders than football (18% vs 7%), cricket bettors are only 3-percentage points likelier than football bettors to belong to the high-income group (26% vs 23%).

Sports that attract high-spenders also have a higher share of discerning customers. For instance, just over a fifth of horse racing bettors (22%) and a quarter of football ones (25%) say they only use sites that offer loyalty schemes. More than twice as many MLB bettors agree with this (48%). The correlation isn’t linear though, with NBA bettors less likely to agree with the statement (37%) in spite of having the highest share of high-spenders. Roughly a third of cricket (32%), tennis (34%) and boxing (35%) bettors also look out for sites that offer loyalty schemes.

Methodology: YouGov Global Gambling Profiles, which includes data from 24 countries, is based on continuously collected data from several sources, rather than from a single limited questionnaire.