Biggest sporting events to gamble on

FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl headline the biggest sports gambling events. 


The market for sports betting was at $83.65 billion in 2022. $83.65 billion! Take a quick second to conceptualize how much money that is and how many bets had to be made to reach that figure. And it’s only increasing.

As I’ve mentioned in previous issues, the market has multiplied over the past few years thanks to the digitalization of sporting events and the legalization of online betting platforms such as FanDuel and DraftKings. Every sporting event generates a ton of revenue for both online and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, as well as a ton of interest from sports fans.

What are people betting on though? What sporting events generate the most revenue for the sports gambling industry? Let’s look at four of the most watched sports in the world and how much money is wagered on them.

FIFA World Cup

Every four years, sports fans from all over the world tune in to watch and gamble on the FIFA World Cup. The iconic soccer tournament is one of the most popular sports gambling events as the total amount wagered worldwide was $35 billion in 2022, a 65% increase to the 2018 FIFA World Cup according to Barclays Plc analysts. Well-known soccer players such as Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Neymar (Brazil) largely contribute to this astronomical number because fans want to place money on their favorite players.

In addition, those who generally don’t wager on soccer are also more likely to bet on the sport around this period. Around 3.57 billion people watched the World Cup in 2018. These numbers increased in 2022; the FIFA World Cup was viewed by about five billion people.

Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the next major event that has drawn the most wagers from around the globe. An estimated 113 million viewers tuned in for Super Bowl LVII in 2023. The high-stakes football combined with extravagant halftime shows skyrockets viewership and thus bets, specifically outlandish prop bets such as the over/under on the National Anthem. ESPN reported around $16 billion was wagered on the contest in 2023 by a record 50.4 million adults in the United States. And this was just on online gambling platforms and casinos.

At several Super Bowl parties, there are Super Bowl squares in which people gamble in a friendly way. In the gambling game, the columns are given to one team and the rows to the other. Then, a number between zero and nine is randomly allocated to each column and row. All participants need to do is choose a square based on their predictions of the score at the end of each quarter and the game. This is a way for the average viewer to stay more tuned into the game.

March Madness

Basketball has experienced the greatest global popularity growth to date, second only to football. During the March Madness tournament, basketball enthusiasts from around the world watch the game together and wager on some of the greatest NCAA Division I basketball matchups. An average viewership of 10 million people tuned in to March Madness in 2023, which led to an estimated $15.5 billion in bets during the entire tournament, according to Forbes.

Additionally, many people create a March Madness bracket through ESPN, CBS and other sports platforms. Participants will select who they think will win in each matchup of the 68-team tournament and join a pool with their friends in which they place wagers.

Kentucky Derby

Lastly, horse racing may be the first thing that springs to mind when discussing sports betting, as it’s unquestionably among the most traditional sports wagers. The Kentucky Derby is one of the most bet-on events in this area of sports betting since it is so well-liked by the general public and has been around since 1875. This year’s Kentucky Derby saw a record $188.7 million wagered.

So, what is my favorite sporting event to gamble on?

As mentioned in previous issues, in the majority of the country to bet on sports you have to be 21 years old or older and in a state that has legalized gambling. I am not 21 yet and California has not legalized gambling. However, when I turn 21 —  by then California will have hopefully come to its senses — the Super Bowl is the answer to that question. Betting on the game is intriguing, but the prop bets are better in my opinion. I’ll be on my couch with my family hoping Taylor Swift’s first halftime song is “Love Story” and the Gatorade color poured on the winning coach is orange.

If you or a loved one suffers from a gambling addiction, please call 1-800-GAMBLER to get help.

Joshua Sacher is a sophomore writing about the growing sports gambling phenomenon in his column, “You Can Bet on It,” which runs every other Wednesday. He is also a sports editor at the Daily Trojan.

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