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Could sports betting be the gateway to Bitcoin adoption?

Could sports betting be the gateway to Bitcoin adoption?
Could sports betting be the gateway to Bitcoin adoption?

The sports betting market is huge – no-one would bat an eyelid at this statement. But just how huge is it? And is it sufficiently large to be a key point of entry for first-time bitcoin users?

According to data research firm Statista, sports betting makes up approximately 30-40% of the global gambling market, a market that includes lotteries, casinos, poker and other gaming enterprises including bitcoin gambling. However, the researchers offer a caveat: "The global sports betting market is difficult to estimate because of the lack of consistency in how it is regulated in some parts of the world."

Indeed, a separate report by market research company Zion Market Research estimates that sports betting accounts for a much larger slice of the gambling pie, constituting over two-thirds (70%) of global revenue. Football, baseball, NFL, NBA, boxing, UFC, tennis and Formula One – not to mention an increasing number of esports – are grabbing action formerly reserved for big casinos. And the momentum is likely to continue, with the global sports betting market predicted to exceed $155 billion by 2024, up from $104 billion in 2017.

Bitcoin Sports Betting: An Avenue for Mainstream Adoption?
Sports betting, in other words, is big business. And it represents a fertile ground for crypto-supporting platforms aiming to lure bettors from traditional online casinos.

The use of cryptocurrencies in the online gambling market is steadily increasing, as platforms and players acknowledge bottom-line benefits in terms of reduced transaction costs, chargebacks and cross-border fees.

It has been ten years since the first bitcoin gambling platform, Switchpoker, opened its virtual doors and in the years since, other digital assets have traded hands on the basis of a dice-roll. In 2011, a gambler known as Nakowa hit the jackpot at Just-Dice.com, claiming an 11,000 BTC bounty that made him a millionaire. Of course, if he had held on to his $1.65 million worth of bitcoin for six years, the sum would've equalled $217m. Who knows, perhaps he did.

While there are several crypto-oriented casinos that let players wager their preferred digital assets, sportsbooks are hardly ubiquitous – strange given their increasing share of the gambling market. And even stranger given the number of crypto firms that have signed lucrative advertising deals with major sports teams.

In the English Premier League – the world's most-watched football league with a global audience of 1.35 billion – several clubs have featured the logos of crypto-gambling companies on their shirts. Whether it's Crypto Millions Lotto's partnership with Wolves, StormGain's high-profile endorsement deal with Newcastle United, or social trading firm eToro's association with Tottenham Hotspur, the worlds of crypto and sport are colliding on the biggest stage. And it would appear to bode well for long-term bitcoin adoption.

The Perks of Being a Bitcoin Bettor
The question is, can these platforms and others like them succeed in onboarding the next generation of digital asset holders? After all, the agreements themselves entail more than just the plastering of an emblem on a shirt sleeve. The partnership between the Watford and sports betting firm sportsbet.io, for example, enables bitcoin holders to sponsor the club in exchange for different perks.

And in Spain, a deal between the top-flight La Liga and celebrity token exchange platform GCOX (Global Crypto Offering Exchange) gives crypto users the ability to exclusively purchase league merchandise and personalised experiences.

As mentioned, the global sports betting market is forecasted to surpass $155 billion by 2024. It's currently impossible to say just what percentage of that figure will come from bitcoin gambling markets, though the fact that the number of active bitcoin addresses has hit an all-time high speaks to the cryptocurrency's enduring appeal. And if digital asset exchanges, gambling portals and other entities continue gaining visibility via lucrative sponsorship deals, who knows?

To provide context, we need only look at Bet365, who in 2016 signed a three-year deal to sponsor live Premier League football on Sky Sports. By 2019, the company's revenue approached the £3 billion mark ($3.3bn), an almost 100% increase over three years. While it would be an exaggeration to say all growth stemmed from its association with the Premier League, there's no doubt that in cementing its status as the league's betting partner, it onboarded millions of new accounts.

Bitcoin outperformed a great many global assets following the market crash of 2020, and renowned hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones referred to it as "a great speculation" earlier this year. Of course, those who might be tempted to wager using bitcoin don't have to be au fait with its monetary model or speculative value. Rather, they need to be convinced of its utility as a medium of exchange – of the increased anonymity and security it confers versus using a bank card, for instance; or the low cost of transaction; or the generous bonuses and promotions it engenders.

Numerous sectors are vying to drive mainstream bitcoin adoption, but given the universal appeal of sports betting – and the proliferation of crypto gambling platforms gaining ground – the industry is ideally placed to win the race.

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