Soccer Betting: A Worldwide Gambling Industry Worth Billions

Soccer isn’t exactly America’s favorite sport. It has grown in popularity in recent years, but some college programs, like football, attract more attention and generate more revenue than professional soccer.

That trend is apparent in sports betting, too. Hundreds of billions of dollars are wagered yearly on American college football, and thanks to a slew of recent upsets involving LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida State and other teams, October saw some big paydays for informed betters. In a handful of states where sports betting is legal, that meant taxpayers saw a big payday as well.

Although professional soccer may not generate the same publicity or profits as college football, its global popularity could bring a new type of international investment to America. Some states, like New Jersey, are actively pushing for gambling policy reform. If they are successful, it appears taxpayers will enjoy revenue from a growing industry.
Soccer betting has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds over the past decade, especially with the advent of Internet betting exchanges. As this article shows, the soccer sports-betting industry not only remains healthy; it promises to continue its breakneck expansion in coming years.

Sports-Betting Data Analysts Estimate Industry’s Overall Value

According to Sportradar director Darren Small, the international sports match-betting industry is worth an estimated $700 billion to $1 trillion annually. These figures account for both legal and illegal betting markets, the latter existing primarily in China. Furthermore, an estimated 70 percent of all markets’ annual trade comes from soccer betting.

Sportradar, an integrity-at-betting and sports data-analysis company, has contracts to monitor some 55,000 matches per year. The company also runs algorithms that detect suspicious betting patterns for 350 global bookmakers. On average, concerns over suspicious betting arise in approximately one percent of matches each year.

Soccer Betting Offers Diverse Betting Options

Asian sports bookmakers typically limit betting options to win, lose and draw. European bookmakers, in contrast, offer
upward of 200 markets per match. These markets include bets on who will score the first and last goals, what the halftime and final scores will be, and what the total number of goals will be.
European books also regularly offer markets on whether sending-offs and hat-tricks will occur and how many penalties and corners there will be. And time-specific markets, including bets on whether a goal, a card or a corner penalty will occur in the first five minutes of a match, are popular as well.

History of Soccer Betting Provides Insights into Current Industry

According to a BBC report, soccer pools began in 1923 and quickly drew hundreds of thousands of bettors. Early participation in pools required bettors to fill out and submit weekly coupons, indicating what they predicted upcoming matches’ results would be. One early winner of a major payout was Viv Nicholson, a factory worker from the U.K., who won a jackpot of 152,000 pounds in 1961.

Such wins have fueled the rise of soccer betting both in and outside the United Kingdom. Today, more than 500,000 people play soccer pools each week; bookmakers report they have paid out more than $5 billion in winnings.
Of course, differences in various jurisdictions’ gambling laws have long impeded the spread of traditional soccer betting. And yet, with the rise of online sports books, has come an expansion of the practice into places where it was previously outlawed.

Internet Technologies Fuel Online Soccer Betting’s Growth

Even more recently, the widespread use of smartphones and tablets has furthermore fueled the rise in worldwide soccer betting. With convenient access to odds and books, bettors can make their wagers while riding a bus or waiting for a friend in a café. Meanwhile, satellite TV networks have expanded coverage of live soccer matches to countries where soccer did not previously have a strong presence.

An increasing interest in European culture and soccer — particularly after the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euro Cup — have
also helped to cement the sport’s dominance.

What’s more, now capable of “in-running,” punters from both sides of the Atlantic have begun placing bets not only before but during soccer matches. Consequently, odds on specific markets vary widely throughout the course of a match, and online bookmakers have experienced unprecedented success.

In the United States, certain soccer teams are enjoying never-seen-before popularity, such as the Seattle Sounders and the New York Red Bulls. Although this is in part due to successful marketing strategies, it also indicates a shift in cultural opinion. Take, for example, the popularity of recently retired soccer superstar David Beckham in the States.

What the future holds for the country’s soccer industry remains to be seen, but when it comes to taking advantage of the sport’s international-betting market, many Americans are in favor of getting a bigger piece of this trillion-dollar pie.

About the Author: Henry Walsh is a sports blogger who regularly bets on soccer. He recommends to others interested in doing so.

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