Canada’s Most Popular Sports to Bet on in 2020

by Staff & Contributors

2020 may have been a challenging year for domestic sport in Canada, with the highly popular CFL and NLL tournaments failing to complete their seasons. Bettors certainly missed the presence of Canadian Football and Box Lacrosse in the sporting calendar, but rather surprisingly, betting volumes only saw a small drop.

So without football and lacrosse to wager on, which sports did prove a hit for Canada’s sports betting fans in 2020? Although no bookmaker we spoke to would provide us with actual figures, we did manage to buy lunch for a trader in one of Canada’s most-popular sportsbooks, and he was kind enough to grant us an off-the-record chat, including ball-park figures on betting volumes.

Here’s what he told us about the top 5 sports which saw the most action from the Canadian gambling community so far this year.

  1. NBA

The success of the Raptors in recent seasons has seen basketball become Canada’s new favourite sport. Although Toronto couldn’t repeat their NBA Championship win of 2019 this time around, the Raptors still made the Conference Semi-finals. The 3-4 loss to the Boston Celtics was a huge draw for Canada’s gambling community, completing an estimated $120 million spend on basketball in 2020.

  1. NHL

Canada’s pre-eminent national sporting competition (until the Raptors came on the scene), the National Hockey League did face severe disruption in 2020. However, a 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs round did take place (without spectators) in September, featuring Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary. Although all bar Vancouver were defeated by the Second Round, NHL betting still managed to yield $90 million for the bookies in 2020.

  1. NFL/Superbowl

In the absence of a CFL season in 2020, Canadian football fans tuned to the American version in the betting markets. An estimated $30 million was spent on the Superbowl alone, as Canada cheered on the Kansas City Chiefs to their first championship in 50 years. The new season has seen similar levels of interest so far, with around $50 million wagered so far, placing NFL football third in the list of top sports for Canadian betting fans. If we add NCAA into the mix, football would overtake hockey for second position.

  1. Tennis

Tennis is famous in the sports betting industry for attracting a comparatively low number of gamblers. However, those that do take a punt on the likes of Nadal and Djokovic tend to be high rollers, who think nothing of betting 5 figures on the outcome of the next set, and 6 figures on the game itself. Although Wimbledon 2020 was cancelled, the other 3 Grand Slam tournaments did proceed. The surprising exploits of Pablo Carreno Busta (French Open semi-finalist) and Jennifer Brady (US Open semi-finalist) meant that sportsbooks reaped impressive margins on the estimated $70m total gambling revenue in Canada.

  1. US Election

Lastly, betting on the US election just managed to pip the UEFA Champions League into 5th place. Partly this was due to the truncated nature of the latter stages of Europe’s biggest club tournament. But the main reason was the intense and passionate battle between the Republican and Democrat camps. This interest even spilled outside the United States themselves, with UK and Australian gamblers – as well as Canadians – betting on Red or Blue. Betting volumes in Canada alone are estimated at the $50m mark, with most of that money placed on a Joe Biden win. Assuming Trump fails in his legal bids to overturn the election result, it looks like bookmakers will have to pay out bigly this time around.

It will be interesting to see how this top 5 list looks like in a year’s time, when the CFL and NLL return to our screens, and without a US election to keep us occupied. Sports betting is clearly a big draw for Canadian gamblers, so we expect 2021 to see new highs in terms of betting volumes.



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