The UK is a sports-loving nation, with a dedication to everything from cricket to soccer. It is also a country where people like to spice up the experience of watching sports by placing wagers on the outcomes.
The enthusiasm for both sport and gambling is evidenced by the sizeable number of sportsbooks to be found in the UK. Anyone who has the slightest interest in sports betting will have no trouble finding somewhere to place a bet, either online or in their local area. The popularity in the UK is easily fathomable
But which of the many sports in existence do people in the UK most like to gamble on? Here are the top sports betting choices in that country.
Nobody who knows about sports in the UK will be surprised to find that soccer is the game with the biggest share of the betting market. Without a doubt, ‘the beautiful game’ is the country’s national sport.
Football has an enormous UK fan base, traditionally based in the working class, with millions of people from across the country going to watch their club each week. The audience for live televised games is even bigger and dwarfs that of any rival sport.
The vast majority of those fans follow the global brand that is the English Premier League and a lot of them also bet on it. Research conducted by the Government in the UK a couple of years ago found that over one-quarter of UK football fans – 28% to be precise – had also gambled on it during the previous year.
That is an enormous market for soccer betting and ensures that it easily tops this list.
2. Horse Racing
Again, the presence of horse racing high up on this list will be no great surprise, as it is a sport that exists to drive betting. Known as the ‘sport of kings’ it has a much more egalitarian image these days and people from all backgrounds love to watch and gamble on races.
The major UK horse racing events like the annual Cheltenham Festival help to drive up the revenues for this segment of the sportsbook market. For example, over the course of the 2017 event, people in the UK placed bets worth more than £150 million.
However, stats show that UK horse racing betting revenues are actually in decline, falling from £5.47 billion over a decade ago to around £1 billion two years ago. That is still big money in anyone’s book though.
This is another sport that is truly beloved in the UK, even if much of the US and Europe find it slow and incomprehensible. Of course, the popularity of the sport in many Asian countries is second to none and this keeps cricket a truly international sport.
Partly because cricket is a sport that has a much more relaxed and sedate pace than most others, fans like to wager on both one-day and test matches to add excitement. Indeed, the evidence shows that no less than 27% of cricket fans also bet on it with sportsbooks.
The amount that fans in the UK bet on cricket per year at online sportsbooks alone is estimated to be around £760 million.
4. Rugby Union
There are a lot of rugby union fans throughout the UK, even if the sport has the image of being for public schoolboys only. Followers of rugby unions enjoy placing bets on ordinary league fixtures, international ties, and major tournaments like the Six Nations.
Its presence on this list may surprise US readers, as the sport has next to no profile in that country. In the UK and European countries like France, rugby union is hugely popular though.
Like football, it is an action-packed sport and the passionate atmosphere helps to drive betting interest. The UK Government sports betting study discovered that 22% of those who follow rugby union had placed a bet on it over the past year, which adds up to one out of every five.
Tennis has never really been one of the biggest sports in the UK. The main reason for that is that it has rarely been a sport where British players excel.
In recent years, interest in betting on tennis has risen steadily though. Surely it is no coincidence that this has happened when winning players like Andy Murray and Emma Radacanu have started to emerge from the country.
That has undoubtedly raised the level of enthusiasm for tennis among sports fans in the UK. The annual hosting of the major tournament Wimbledon in South London also helps to drive the tennis gambling business.
A final reason for the rise in tennis betting is simply that nowadays people enjoy internet betting of all sorts. So these are the five sports that generate the most betting interest in the UK and they seem likely to remain big business.