There once was a time when shady back-alley bookies and downright crooks ran the sports betting industry. But those dark old days are done, and now it is easier than ever to legally place wagers on your favourite athletic codes from all over the world. Let us show you what is on offer at leading online bookmakers.
Best ONLINE BOOKMAKERS
Football, soccer, o joga bonito – call it what you like, but it is the most popular sport on the planet. As such, it should come as no surprise that soccer betting makes up a huge portion of the worldwide sports wagering industry.
Online bookies run markets for just about every professional football division on the planet, including the lower leagues and even the semi-pro competitions in the UK. They also do a roaring trade for major international events such as the FIFA World Cup, European Championship and Copa America, as well as juniors and women’s tournaments.
Top competitions for online soccer betting include:
- UEFA Champions League
- Europa League
- English Premier League
- Spanish Primera Division (La Liga)
- German Bundesliga
- Italian Serie A
- French Ligue Un
- Dutch Eredivisie
- Scottish Premier League
- Brazilian Campeonato
- Argentine Primera Division
- Major League Soccer
- Australian A-League
- Japanese J-League
- Korean K-League
- Chinese Super League
The basketball betting scene has experienced a huge boom in recent years. Punters can bet on men’s and women’s pro leagues from all over the globe, as well as collegiate and junior competitions.
Top of the pops is obviously the National Basketball Association – one of the world’s richest and most watched sporting divisions. NBA betting provides an enormous array of opportunities for punters year-round, from futures markets, to match and series odds, to wide-ranging player props. Bookies go nuts for the NBA Playoffs.
Despite the NBA’s ever-growing worldwide popularity, college basketball is still king in the United States. Online sports bookies take huge amounts of bets on the NCAA Basketball Championship, which is watched by millions each year and is widely regarded as the highest level of amateur sport anywhere in the world. Also popular among diehard punters is the WNBA – the premier women’s US basketball division.
But it is not all about the US. There are major basketball leagues all over Europe, including the ProA League in France, Serie A in Italy, Liga ACB in Spain, the BBL in Germany and the Turkish Basketball Super League. Australia and New Zealand have the National Basketball League, while Argentina’s LNB is the top comp in South America.
As far as provincial sports go, there are none bigger than American football. It has always enjoyed a strong following among punters, but the advent of football betting sites and daily fantasy sports has taken things to a whole new level.
The National Football League is now the most popular professional division in US sport. The highlight of the NFL betting scene is undoubtedly the Super Bowl, which draws enormous money and billions of viewers from all over the globe.
For the purists, however, college football cannot be beat. Readers from outside the US may be shocked to learn that eight of the world’s 10 largest sports stadiums belong to US college football teams – that’s how big a deal it is. Online bookies run huge future markets on the NCAAF Championship and the coveted Heisman Trophy – the top individual honour in collegiate sport.
America’s pastime has a long and storied gambling tradition – not all of it good. But the infamous 1919 White Sox are a thing of distant memory, Pete Rose is long retired, and punters can enjoy a huge range of legal and legitimate online baseball betting markets.
Major League Baseball is the sport’s pinnacle. Teams from the American League and the National League compete every year for a run at the World Series – one of the biggest sports betting events there is.
Baseball betting is not restricted to the United States. The sport has won a massive following in east Asia since the mid 20th century, and the professional leagues of Japan and Korea have produced a number of MLB stars. Australian baseball also has a cult following among punters and sports fans alike.
The best online bookies run ice hockey betting markets on a wide range of competitions, including:
National Hockey League – NHL betting takes top billing at all ice hockey bookies. The top 30 franchise teams from Canada and the US slug it out across four divisions and two conferences each year in pursuit of the Stanley Cup – the oldest professional sporting trophy in North America.
Kontinental Hockey League – Part Eurasian super division and part Soviet Union hangover, the KHL features 22 teams from Russia and one each from Belarus, China, Croatia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia. Only the NHL’s Stanley Cup holds more prestige than the Gagarin Cup in the domestic ice hockey scene.
National League A – Switzerland’s premier hockey division has now grown to the point where it outranked the KHL, Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Swedish Hockey League, Czech Extraliga and the second-tier American Hockey League for average game attendances in 2016-17. Heavyweights HC Davos, SC Bern and ZSC Lions have dominated the division since 2000.
Betting and cricket have not always been a good combination. But as long as you are not giving pitch conditions to random inquirers or bowling no-balls on command, you should have no issues trying your luck on the world’s oldest professional team sport.
The beauty of online cricket betting is the sheer diversity of it. You can bet on internationals, domestic leagues and even elite club grades from all over the world. There are also several different formats:
Test matches – Some say Test cricket is on the wane, while others insist it is the only form of the game that really matters. Two innings per team over five days make for a gruelling challenge of body and mind. No Test series draws more action than The Ashes, when Australia and England revive a sporting rivalry that dates back to the 19th century.
One Day Internationals – Developed in the 1960s with the aim of packing more excitement into a less time-consuming package, ODI cricket is the top level of the limited-overs game. The ICC Cricket World Cup and the Champions Trophy are two of the sport’s most prestigious titles.
Twenty20 cricket – The new kid on the block is fast becoming the most popular format of them all. This supercharged version of one-day cricket draws big money and healthy crowds, which is why domestic comps such as the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash League can attract superstar talent from all over the globe.
With pro tours and representative tournaments running most of the year, online tennis betting offers as rich and diverse a gambling scene as any sport. Both the men’s and women’s tennis tours are spread over several tiers, meaning punters can choose from an enormous range of betting options week in, week out. Highlights include the ATP World Tour Finals, the Masters 1000 series and the WTA Finals.
Biggest of all are the four Grand Slam events – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. These are some of the hottest outright betting markets in sport, with the singles draws attracting huge money months in advance.
Punters can also look to high-profile international team events such as the David Cup, the Federations Cup and the Hopman Cup, as well as the Olympic Games.
Like tennis, golf’s many professional divisions are great news for gamblers who want wide-ranging options week after week. Golf betting sites run markets all year round, encompassing regular tour events, major championships, special team events and more.
The PGA Tour is the richest and most prestigious of the men’s circuits, featuring marquee events such as the Players Championship, the Memorial Tournament and the World Golf Championships. The European Tour ranks a close second and co-sanctions a number of high-profile events in Africa, Asia, Australasia and South America.
For many, it is all about the majors. The Masters Tournament is one of the most glamorous events on the US sporting calendar, while the British Open Championship has showcased the very best of traditional links golf since the middle of the 19th century. The US Open and the PGA Championship are often two of the toughest tourneys on any tour.
Team events are another big draw. Ryder Cup betting is massive as the US and Europe duke it out every two years in the world’s premier matchplay event. There is also the Presidents Cup (US vs. Internationals) and the Solheim Cup (US women vs. European women).
Boxing and martial arts
From bareknuckle back-alley fights to heavyweight title bouts televised worldwide, boxing has always enjoyed a vibrant gambling scene. Nowadays it is easier than ever to bet on the Sweet Science, as online bookmakers run markets for every fight organised by each of the sport’s four major governing bodies:
- World Boxing Association
- World Boxing Council
- International Boxing Federation
- World Boxing Organisation
One of the great sporting success stories of recent decades is mixed martial arts. Launched in 1993 as an experiment to determine which was the most effective hand-to-hand combat method, the Ultimate Fighting Championship spawned an entirely new hybrid code and is now one of the world’s most lucrative independent sporting franchises. See our in-depth UFC betting guide here.
Leading rugby league betting sites focus the vast majority of their attention on four major competitions:
National Rugby League – Featuring 15 teams from Australia and one from New Zealand, the NRL is the world’s best domestic rugby league football competition. South Sydney Rabbitohs (21 titles) and Sydney Roosters (13 titles) were the powerhouse clubs before the competition was fully nationalised in 1998, since when the likes of Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos have flourished.
State of Origin – Footy fans in the league-mad states of New South Wales and Queensland regard this as the greatest sporting rivalry in Australia, if not the world. The Maroons have enjoyed an overwhelming superiority over their southern neighbours since 2006, yet Aussie bookies continue to take massive money on the State of Origin series every year.
European Super League – Although it is dominated by clubs from the traditional rugby league heartlands of Lancashire and West Yorkshire in the north of England, the ESL also allows for teams from France, Canada and other nations to qualify. Leeds Rhinos (seven titles) and St Helens (six titles) have led the way since the Super League’s formation in 1996.
Rugby League World Cup – While it may lack the prestige and global appeal of the other Rugby World Cup, the RLWC has been running twice as long and continues to attract punters every four years. Australia have amassed some 10 trophies in 14 attempts, with Great Britain (three titles) and New Zealand (one title) the only other champions.
Outside of Australia, union is considered the premier format of rugby-style football. An amateur sport up until the mid 1990s, the growing professionalisation of rugby in recent years has spawned a number of high-profile competitions that come with a healthy gambling scene.
Super Rugby is a trailblazer among top-flight football divisions. A ‘super league’ in the truest sense, it brings together 18 club teams from Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa in an annual group and knockout tournament. Crusaders have reached the final 11 times since the inaugural Super 12 season of 1996, winning on seven occasions.
The Northern Hemisphere is home to three major club competitions. Premiership Rugby is the pinnacle of the English game, featuring 12 teams from as far flung as Exeter in Devon and Newcastle in Northumbria. Clubs from Ireland, Scotland and Wales play in the Pro12 alongside teams from Italy, while the Top 14 is the elite division of French rugby.
The Rugby World Cup is an obvious highlight, but it is only one among several must-see tournaments on the international calendar. The Six Nations Championship sees England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales duke it out every year for the right to be crowned kings of Europe, while the All Blacks, Pumas, Springboks and Wallabies fight for Southern Hemisphere supremacy in the annual Rugby Championship (formerly Tri Nations). Those tournaments also feature a number of traditional trophy fights, including the Bledisloe Cup (Australia vs. NZ) and the Freedom Cup (NZ vs. Sth Africa).
Amateur pursuits they may be, yet the originality and quality of traditional Irish sports continue to draw fans from all over the world. All leading online and mobile bookies run betting markets on the two most prominent Celtic codes:
Gaelic football – Combining elements of soccer, rugby and Australian football to create something altogether different, ‘peil ghaelach’ is far and away the most popular live sport in Ireland. Crowds in excess of 80,000 pile into Croke Park every year for the final of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, where the nation’s top two county sides fight over the Sam Maguire Cup.
Hurling – It may look like all the most violent parts of hockey, lacrosse and rugby thrown together, but ‘iománaíocht’ is one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated team sports. In fact, recent studies have shown that no other athletic code requires such an advanced and multi-faceted skillset. As with the football, thousands flock to Dublin every year for the All-Ireland Senior Hurling final.
A few years ago, the idea of wagering on the results of multiplayer video games would have seemed utterly ridiculous. Nowadays, however, eSports betting is far and away the fastest-growing division of the global online gambling sector.
Electronic sports have boomed since the turn of the millennium and the advent of online gaming. The world’s best button-mashers are no longer confined to lounge rooms and computer desks; they now play for hundreds of thousands in prize money at major events that draw live audiences of 40,000 and up.
The premier level of eSports gaming is driven by popular first-person shooter games such as League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota2) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). However, things are changing with the 2018 launch of the NBA 2K eLeague, which will bring virtual sports gaming into the mainstream and light the way for other real-time sporting franchises to cross over into the digital realm.
For diversity alone, few sports can compete with motor racing. Popular formats at online bookmakers include:
Formula One racing – As the richest and fastest of the motor racing classes, F1 betting receives the lion’s share of attention from punters. Classic races such as the Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, Belgian Grand Prix in Spa and European Grand Prix at Germany’s Nurburgring attract hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide.
Rally cars – There are no smooth asphalt surfaces or fully catered pit lanes where these guys go. Forest trails, desert plains, cliffside goat tracks – rally drivers must tackle all manner of terrain and conditions not found in traditional circuit racing. Nowhere is that more apparent that in the FIA World Rally Championship, with a fixture list that spans the length and breadth of the globe.
NASCAR racing – Readers from outside North America may find it hard to fathom the immense popularity of stock car racing, especially in the southern states. In fact, only the NFL draws larger television audiences for live sports in the US. The richest and most prestigious race on tour is the Daytona 500, regarded by many as the ‘Super Bowl of stock car racing’.
Touring cars – There is something about hooning around a track in a souped-up family sedan that captures the imagination of racing fans. The FIA World Touring Car Championship is regarded as the highest level everywhere but Australia, where the Supercars Championship reigns supreme.
Motorcycle racing – There is plenty on offer for punters who prefer two wheels over four. MotoGP racing is the world’s premier Grand Prix motorcycle racing circuit, while the Superbike World Championship is the top tier for production-model rides. Perhaps the most famous motor racing event of all is the Isle of Man TT, which was first held way back in 1907.