Who Bets on Sports?

Human Silhouettes With a Sportsbook Board and Money Background

Sports bettors come from every walk of life imaginable. Every possible demographic is represented among sports bettors.

That’s what makes sports betting so beautiful, and anybody can do it. Sure, it may be more enjoyable if you are a sports fan.

But that’s certainly not required.

Let’s take a more in-depth look and break down who bets on sports?

Golden Age of Sports Betting

Sports gambling has never been more widely accessible to beginner sports bettors. Nor have the stakes ever been so high.

In the United States alone, billions of dollars are wagered every year. And that’s just the money laid with legal sportsbooks. Untold sums of cash are bet in office pools, backyard barbecues, and local bars.

Many estimates put the amount of money illegally wagered north of $150 billion. That figure is over 10 times the amount placed with legal sportsbooks.

In 2018, the United States Supreme Court decided to favor the issue of legal sports betting falling under states’ rights, effectively ending a lengthy federal ban.

The decision made by the nation’s highest court was followed swiftly by bills allowing sports betting in individual states. Today, 22 states have legalized some manner of sports betting with an additional three expected to be added to that list this year.

2021 is a much-anticipated year for the sports betting industry. 15 states are expected to join the 50% of the country that should have readily available and, most importantly, legalized sports betting.

All this progress will surely bring troves of undercover sports bettors into the mainstream. An estimated 60% of Americans are avid sports fans, and many aren’t sports bettors yet.

Don’t Believe Everything You See on T.V.

Sports bettors are often portrayed as down on their luck degenerates. They’re shown selling off their possessions or “borrowing” money from family or friends to place the bet that’ll get them back in the black.

This couldn’t be much further from the norm. Yes, there are sports bettors that, unfortunately, have a gambling addiction that may take them down a dark path.

However, it’s a low percentage of gamblers. Hollywood wouldn’t do themselves any favors by portraying a regular guy working a tedious sales job that gambles from the small bankroll that is specifically dedicated for gambling.

MLB Royals Players Celebrating

So, we regularly get a downtrodden person that is barely making ends meet. Usually, there’s a failing marriage, distant children, and weary relatives. This is not the norm.

Fewer than 3% of Americans report any signs of problem gambling, and far fewer are anything like I described above.

I don’t say this to diminish those who have trouble with gambling addiction — far from it, actually.

My point is that most gamblers and, more specifically, sports bettors are everyday people without much drama or ongoing strife.

Everyone Plays

When I was younger, I played a lot of baseball. I remember having particular disdain for one rule in particular.

Everyone played. That did not sit well with my pragmatic sensibilities, even as an 8-year-old. I was cursed with an insatiable competitive streak, one that I continue to battle to this day.

After all, I spent hours in the dirt to be my best. Having my 6’3” father, a former college football player, zing balls at me going what must’ve been just under Mach speed.

Why should Aaron — who can’t make the throw from second to first — be allowed on the field?

I wish I could sit here today and tell you I was wrong.

Fortunately, for sports betting, this rule applies well.

Anybody can bet on sports. You don’t need to have banks of computers running the latest data and producing up to the minute analytics. You also don’t have to have a multi-million dollar bankroll to draw from as you lounge in your VIP Suite in Vegas.

You could spend $1 or $100 betting on the NFL with your next-door neighbor on any given Saturday or Sunday during the football season. Personally, I enjoy a $20 bet on an important game as much as placing a large wager on an event that I have zero interest in because I see good value.

The betting on the contest doesn’t replace the event for me. It merely serves to enhance my enjoyment of the game. There’s no disputing that having a little skin in the game will increase the excitement of watching.

As painful as it is when I lose a $20 bet to a friend, there is a small twinge of pleasure that comes pulling that Jackson out of my wallet. I’ve been bested. Good for them.

You don’t need to know anything about sports to get in on the fun. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone bet me on a game because they are from the same city as one of the teams or because the Broncos are playing and they love horses.

Fantasy World, Real Money

Fantasy sports are incredibly popular. The NFL rules the roost in fantasy sports much as it does in the traditional gambling.

From mid to late August, I seem to have at least five friends a week missing a meeting or rescheduling plans because of their fantasy football draft.

I have a close friend that plays in three fantasy baseball leagues. That seems exhausting, but many sports fans play fantasy sports ranging from hockey to golf.

Millions of Americans wager billions annually on fantasy sports. As with any other type of sports betting, the cross-section of the population is as diverse as a bag of jelly beans.

NFL Patriots at the Line of Scrimmage

Obviously, fantasy sports are geared more towards sports fans. It’s not always the guy that spends hours scouring the waiver wire that has the most success.

I dated a girl that joined our league one season. She drafted her entire team based on an ESPN Top 100 list I printed off for her, didn’t make a single trade or free agent move all season, and paid no attention to bye weeks.

She won the league and walked away with a slick $500. To say she was not an avid sports fan is an understatement. Yet, despite having no knowledge of the league or even how points accrued. She didn’t even keep it very close in the championship game.

The advent of daily fantasy sports betting through companies like FanDuel has opened the floodgates for sports fans and gamblers alike to embrace and enjoy the discipline.

It seems that there must be something on the line for many fantasy sports bettors to make the games worth following.

The Professionals

Next, we have the top level of sports bettors. Professional sports bettors make their living from laying action on the games.

Spending your day betting on games may seem like a dream to many avid sports bettors. However, maintaining a level of excellence needed just to break even takes an immense amount of hard work and total dedication.

To make a profit betting on sports, you must win at least 52.4% of your bets. Anything lower than that and you’re losing money.

So, how do the best sports bettors in the world stay at such a high level?

Pro sports bettors are incredibly intelligent and maybe a little bit fearless. They are always on the hunt for even the slightest advantage in a match up offered by the sportsbook.

Many of the pros employ the latest analytics and computer models to calculate where there may be value on the line and strike while the iron is hot.

Billy Walters is perhaps the most well known and most successful sports bettor of all time. He boasts a winning percentage of 57%.

I remember hearing that figure and thinking sheesh that’s terrible. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Walters built an empire, including every gambler’s dream of owning not one, but two casinos.


As you can see, the answer to the question of “Who bets on sports?” is anybody.

You need only three things to begin betting on sports:

  1. Something to bet on. A game, fantasy sports, or a future contest will do the trick.
  2. Something to wager. You don’t necessarily have to bet with cash. You could bet a meal or even who mows the lawn.
  3. Someone to take the bet. Often this will be a sportsbook or bookie, but as the data shows, it’s far more likely to be a friend or colleague taking the action.

Being a sports fan is definitely beneficial to your success as a sports bettor, but it’s not required. You may have more fun if you aren’t a big sports fan. I can’t think of a better way to get involved in a game than having some money on it.