Reports This Month
One Big Thing
The FIFA World Cup is fully underway in Qatar, and thanks to countless goals and surprise upsets, it’s fair to say this edition is living up to the tournament’s epic reputation.
Some of the excitement has been generated from the increasing presence of legal gambling.
- According to betting intelligence firm H2 Gambling Capital, an average $400 million has been staked worldwide on each group match played in Qatar. It predicts wagers of over $1 billion per knockout game and up to $2.5 billion for the final.
- Barclays claims $35 billion will be wagered on the 2022 FIFA World Cup — an increase of 65% from the previous edition.
With the knockout round upon us, Qatar 2022 has already uncovered new challenges and lessons for the diverse stakeholders in sports betting.
We talked with Harry von Behr, U.S. Managing Director at Spotlight Sports Group, for insight into the most relevant betting trends through the World Cup.
The American Effect
In contrast to the 2018 edition — where sports betting was legal in only three U.S. states, and the USMNT squad didn’t even qualify — American soccer fans can bet legally in 32 states, and the excitement is clear:
- The American Gaming Association claim 20.5 million American adults (8% of the population) plan to place at least one wager on the World Cup.
- World Cup wagers could reach a total of $1.8 billion in the U.S. — making it the biggest soccer betting event in U.S. history.
That figure pales in comparison to the $8 billion wagered on the Super Bowl and $3 billion on NCAA basketball’s March Madness, but the World Cup is nevertheless rising as a lead magnet, customer acquisition, and fan engagement event for American sportsbooks.
But even with new entrants in the space and the uptick in organic interest in the U.S. betting market, some obstacles still exist to maximizing growth.
Suboptimal Betting Time
The times at which the matches take place impact regions differently. The time difference between Qatar and the U.S. — up to 11 hours ahead of the Pacific time zone — presented a disadvantage for American bookies, cutting viewership numbers and volume of bets placed before and during the matches.
But as the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
While games are being played in the morning and early noon in America, they’re primetime for European and Asian markets.
To generate similar demand at suboptimal game times, American sportsbooks would have to spend more on advertising, resulting in higher marketing and customer acquisition budgets, raised costs, and lower profitability margins.
Yet, time and location aren’t the only things that disadvantage American bookies.
Like summer sunblock sales or umbrella demand for the rainy season, the demand for sports wagers goes through cycles. In the U.S., football bets rise gradually from August through February and wagers on college basketball peak during March Madness.
“Betting providers with lower offseason demand tend to tap other sports or competitions.
Most sports leagues take a break during the summer, so a traditional June-July World Cup would be a great filler for that downtime — but not this year,” said von Behr.
This edition is happening in the winter to avoid the extreme temperatures that Qatar reaches during the summer, disrupting American sports betting seasonality.
In Europe, soccer is the most popular sport for wagering, and since most leagues took a break from the action, the World Cup stands alone as the best alternative for European bettors.
In the U.S., the NFL and NBA — two of the most popular sports to wager in the U.S. — are still playing and taking significant market share within the type of sports American bettors currently make.
Qatar’s tournament seasonality might provide a temporary uptick in betting volume, but the potential for continuity and momentum will not be as strong as what we’ll see during the 2026 World Cup edition in North America.
Preferences and Familiarity
Americans tend to bet on USMNT games, and the further the USMNT squad makes it into the tournament, the bigger the handles and revenue potential for American sportsbooks.
Regular bettors also have preferred sports. According to a report from the Colorado Sports Betting Proceeds, soccer is only the sixth-most popular sport to bet on in the U.S. — even behind tennis.
In September 2022, Colorado Sports Betting saw wagers in soccer amount to $16 million — a minimal amount compared to the $145 million from professional football, $52 million from NCAA football, and $21 million from basketball.
“Essentially, even if the World Cup is widely popular, the American sports bettor is not a particular soccer bettor,” explained von Behr.
A larger number of alternatives to wager for the American bettor will reallocate capital that could’ve been placed on bets for the World Cup, reducing overall bet volume growth for American sportsbooks.
Due to the popularity and massive viewership numbers of the World Cup, there are countless opportunities to engage with millions of fans, find preferences, and understand the factors that shape different betting behaviors.
The match between the USA and England drew 15.4 million viewers. It was the most-watched men’s soccer match on English-language American television.
With the right approach to overcome the diverse obstacles, sportsbooks can use this national spike in interest to draw more people into their business and push the growth of sports gambling.