Sports are more than just games in the United States; they are a reflection of the nation’s diverse culture, regional identities, and shared passions. From the roaring stadiums of college football in the South to the fervent basketball courts of the Midwest, the popularity of different sports paints a complex and colorful tapestry across the states.
And the numbers speak for themselves.
Around 160 million Americans tune in to watch live sport on TV every month and spend dozens of billions on sports tickets every year.
This landscape is shaped by so many factors, each contributing to the unique sports profile of every state. But also to its profitability for the sportsbook industry.
Whether it’s the national obsession with the NFL or the localized appeal of hockey in northern regions, sports in America are a dynamic and unifying force that transcends boundaries and connects communities.
What are the most popular sports by States, and how to leverage it in business? Read more to find out.
Most Popular Sports by State
Using Vivid Seats sales and Wikipedia search volume, MyProtein analyzed the most popular sports by state – and we’re happy to elaborate on that below.
#1 Football: America’s Favorite Sport
Football reigns supreme as the most popular sport in the United States, with both college and professional football enjoying immense popularity.
NCAA Football: Particularly beloved in states with big SEC schools, NCAA Football is the most popular sport in twelve states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The fervent devotion to college football in these states often surpasses that of professional teams.
NFL Football: Professional football is the top choice in nineteen states, including Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington. The NFL season is as much a part of American culture as Fourth of July celebrations, with rivalries and Super Bowl aspirations fueling passion across the nation.
#2 Baseball: The National Sport of Choice
Baseball, often considered part of the American identity, is the favorite sport in nine states and the District of Columbia.
MLB Baseball: States that prefer MLB Baseball include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. The sport’s rich history, influential teams like the Cardinals, Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox, and connections to Canadian teams like the Blue Jays contribute to its popularity, especially in the New England region.
#3 Basketball: A Growing Interest
Basketball, both at the college and professional levels, has a significant following in several states.
NCAA Basketball: Kentucky stands out as the only state where NCAA Basketball is the most popular sport, reflecting a strong college basketball tradition.
NBA Basketball: NBA Basketball is the favorite in Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin, with fans keenly following the NBA season.
#4 Hockey: A Cold-Weather Favorite
Hockey, Canada’s national sport, also finds a fan base in the U.S., particularly in cold-weather states.
NHL Hockey: States that prefer NHL Hockey include Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, and surprisingly, Nevada. The establishment of an NHL team in Nevada may have contributed to the growing enthusiasm for the sport there.
Sports Popularity Factors
The popularity of different sports across states is influenced by various factors:
#1 Age Groups
Different age groups may have varying interests in sports. Younger generations might be drawn to fast-paced, high-energy sports like basketball, while older individuals might prefer golf or tennis. Youth sports programs can also foster early interest in specific sports.
According to Statista:
#2 Weather Conditions
Warmer states might favor outdoor sports like baseball or surfing, while colder states might prefer winter sports like ice hockey or skiing. A prime example is the popularity of hockey among states.
#3 Economic Factors
The availability of facilities, equipment, and funding for sports programs can affect the accessibility and popularity of different sports. Wealthier areas might have more resources to support a variety of sports, while economically disadvantaged areas might have limited options.
#4 Media Exposure
The amount of media coverage, including television broadcasts, online streaming, and social media presence, can significantly influence the popularity of a sport. High-profile events and celebrity athletes can draw attention and create new fans.
#5 Educational Institutions
Schools and universities that emphasize certain sports can create a culture that values and promotes those activities. For example, a college known for its basketball program might foster a strong local interest in the sport.
#6 Successful Teams
The success of local college or professional teams can create a strong fan base and loyalty to specific sports. A winning football team, for example, can ignite statewide passion for the sport.
#7 Historical Success and Legacy
States with a rich history of success in a particular sport may continue to favor that sport. Legacy and tradition can create a strong attachment to specific sports, influencing new generations of fans.
#8 Global Events and Competitions
Hosting or performing well in international competitions like the Olympics can spark interest in specific sports. Success on a global stage can create national pride and boost the popularity of those sports within the country.
Overview of Sports Betting in the US
Based on the information from the article on Covers.com, sports betting in the United States has seen significant growth and diversification across various states. Here’s a detailed overview:
Most Profitable States
Nevada, known as the traditional hub for gambling, continues to lead the way in sports betting revenue.
In 2023, the state handles over $2.42 billion in sports betting, generating a gross revenue of $135.56 million. The hold percentage, which represents the profit margin for betting companies, was 5.67%, a slight increase from 5.10% in 2022.
This growth in hold percentage indicates a more profitable environment for betting companies. With a well-established infrastructure and a high number of tourists, Nevada maintains its top position in the industry.
#2 New Jersey
New Jersey has rapidly expanded its sports betting industry, capitalizing on its proximity to major markets like New York City.
In 2023, the state handles $3.78 billion, with a gross revenue of $292.29 million and a hold percentage of 7.72%. The increase in hold percentage from 7.00% in 2022 demonstrates a growing potential for betting companies in the state.
New Jersey’s strategic location and aggressive expansion have positioned it as a strong contender in the sports betting market.
With a vibrant sports culture and a large population, Pennsylvania has become one of the top states for sports betting revenue.
In 2023, the state handles $2.66 billion, generating a gross revenue of $223.69 million.
The hold percentage was 8.39%, up from 8.20% in 2022.
This upward trend in hold percentage signifies a favorable landscape for betting companies, reflecting the state’s commitment to fostering a thriving sports betting industry.
Expansion and Legislation
Sports betting has been legalized and regulated in over 30 states, with more states considering legislation. The expansion has been driven by the potential for increased tax revenue and economic stimulation.
This further highlights the growing profitability for betting companies, adding to the appeal for further expansion.
Opportunities for sports betting and gambling
The evolving landscape of sports popularity in the United States presents numerous opportunities for the sports betting and gambling industry. Here are some key areas of potential growth:
Rise of MLS Soccer
The recent transfers of global soccer stars like Lionel Messi and other renowned players to Major League Soccer (MLS) have ignited interest in the league.
Google Trends charts show it clearly with the interest skyrocketing after the World Cup, and then once Messi joined Inter Miami.
This surge in popularity, not only among international fans, is likely to boost betting on MLS games. The influx of talent from other countries and continents, coupled with increased media coverage, creates a ripe environment for sports betting.
There is an opportunity to capitalize on this trend for betting companies based in New Jersey or New York (which are the only two states from the above that allow betting as of now).
Emergence of New Sports Markets
As different sports gain traction in various states, new betting markets may emerge. The growth of sports like lacrosse, surfing, or eSports, driven by demographic shifts, cultural trends, or technological advancements, can open new avenues for betting and gambling.
Participation in Daily Fantasy League Play
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) have become a significant part of the sports betting landscape. Platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel allow fans to create virtual teams and compete in daily or weekly contests. This form of betting engages fans on a deeper level, allowing them to utilize their knowledge of players, teams, and game dynamics.
Users of sports betting and fantasy apps in the United States varied by company in March 2021. A slight preference was shown for DraftKings Fantasy among users between the ages of 18 and 25. In contrast, users between the ages of 26 and 35 preferred FanDuel Fantasy Sports.
The growth of DFS presents a unique opportunity for sports betting platforms to collaborate with or create their fantasy leagues, attracting a dedicated and knowledgeable user base.
And the numbers speak for themselves.
Fantasy football was estimated to have 29.2 million players in the United States in 2022. There were approximately 12.5 million fantasy baseball players in the U.S., the second most popular fantasy sport.
For the 2021, the data for other leagues looks interesting as well:
Likewise, sports betting companies have a huge untapped opportunity to use this knowledge and data to their advantage – either by partnering with fantasy apps and leagues, or building their own one.
Leveraging College Sports Popularity
NCAA Football and Basketball have massive followings in many states. Betting platforms can create specialized offerings around college sports events, such as March Madness or Bowl Games. Tailoring betting options to the unique dynamics and rivalries of college sports can create a more engaging experience for fans.
In-Game Betting and Live Streaming
The integration of live streaming with in-game betting options can create a more immersive experience. Fans can watch games live and place bets on specific events, players, or outcomes as the game unfolds.
This real-time engagement can enhance the excitement and appeal of sports betting.
The landscape of sports popularity in the United States is diverse and multifaceted. From the dominance of football to the regional appeal of baseball, basketball, and hockey, the preferences for different sports reflect the complexity of American society.
This poses a lot of opportunities for sportsbook betting, as the industry can tap into the varied interests and loyalties of sports fans across the nation.
The most profitable states for sports betting, such as Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, have shown significant growth, with increasing hold percentages indicating greater potential for betting companies.
Moreover, the responsible integration of sports betting within the legal and ethical framework, coupled with innovative marketing strategies and technological advancements, can create a sustainable and thriving industry.
Understanding the unique regional preferences, demographic influences, and cultural connections, the sports betting industry can craft tailored experiences that resonate with the diverse American audience.
The future of sports betting in the U.S. looks bright.
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