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Is cricket betting still popular in the UK?

Online sports betting has become big business during the 21st century, with advancements in technology driving a seismic shift in how punters place wagers.

Football and horse racing have historically dominated the landscape in the United Kingdom, but numerous other sports also garner plenty of interest among sports bettors.

These include cricket, which is firmly embedded in the top 10 sports which generate the most activity in the sports betting industry.

There are plenty of cricket betting sites to choose from in the UK, each of which offer punters the chance to wager on leagues and competitions from around the world.

In terms of popularity, these sites have helped to place cricket in the same bracket as sports such as golf, boxing, tennis and rugby union from a betting perspective.

Government research from 2022 highlighted that six percent of respondents bet on cricket in the previous 12 months – some way behind the 45% who wagered on football.

However, with the YouGov study showing that more people bet on cricket than other popular sports such as greyhound racing and motorsports, the figure gains greater perspective.

Intriguingly, cricket also generated more interest than the NFL, NBA and MLB, highlighting that UK bettors still favour sports they are more familiar with.

Age demographics paint an interesting picture for the wider cricket world, with the study showing that challenges abound from some unlikely quarters.

UK bettors aged 18-24 were discovered to be much more likely than other age groups to have placed a bet on eSports – 7% versus 2% of all respondents surveyed.

Fantasy sports were also popular amongst this age group, further highlighting why sports such as cricket should be eager to find ways to appeal to different demographics.

The introduction of The Hundred in 2021 sparked a ton of controversy, with critics arguing its format was further evidence of the sport ‘dumbing down’.

However, supporters of the controversial competition claim it has opened up cricket to a new audience – a factor they say is crucial to future sustainability in the sport.

Durham Chief Executive Officer Tim Bostock is a big fan of The Hundred and is eager to establish a franchise in the north east when the competition is expanded.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is currently under pressure to secure outside investment for the competition – something Bostock says needs to happen quickly.

“There’s probably no bigger strategic decision to be made than this one,” Bostock said. “You’re not going to please everybody but you’ve got to get it right.”

“This is the silver bullet, game-changer for the game. Despite all the criticism, I’m yet to see another product three years on from start-up that is thought to be worth £750 million. That money will sustain 18 counties, accelerate the growth of the women’s game and support recreational cricket.

“The economic reality is that without the advent of the Hundred and the huge investment it’s going to bring, it’s unlikely we’d still have 18 counties in five years’ time.

“We need to make sure The Hundred is monetised to become recognised as the second best short-form competition in the world, after the Indian Premier League (IPL). To do that, you’ve got to pay the money that attracts the best players and for that we need investment.”

Despite Bostock’s comments, the ECB recently rejected a proposal for the Hundred from Lalit Modi, the founder of the IPL, who valued the competition at $1 billion.

Modi set up the IPL in 2008 and the latest estimates put its value at more than $10bn – a growth of more than 400 percent since it started.

The IPL’s success has been fuelled by lucrative partnerships with major sponsors and broadcasters, while coverage from the online betting industry has further boosted its profile.

Wagering on the IPL in India is hugely popular, with many bookmakers who operate in the jurisdiction recording their highest turnover when the tournament is staged.

As Bostock has recognised, securing outside investment for The Hundred could fire the competition into another stratosphere, making it more appealing to fans and bettors alike.

The international flavour of football competitions such as the Premier League and Champions League unquestionably makes them more appealing to UK bettors.

If cricket heads down a similar route by securing the investment needed to attract more overseas players to The Hundred, interest among bettors could go off the scale.

While cricket is unlikely to challenge football or horse racing in the popularity stakes with punters, it unquestionably has the potential to surpass sports such as golf, boxing, tennis and rugby union.

Cricket betting is already popular in the UK, but it could become even more fashionable if the ECB has the vision to truly capitalise on The Hundred’s potential.