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Online Sports Betting in India – a Punter’s Profile

15 Aug 2022

Our recent studies have revealed that public sentiment in the Union is largely favourable towards online sports betting. Yet, in a domestic market rich in supply but poor in quality and regulated operators, desi bettors have to count upon offshore sites to indulge in their sports passion.

Pure Win’s industry experts outline the profile of the typical online player in India, supported by the sportsbook’s own data on registered player sessions. Cricket fans still hold the top spot across the nation, although other sports and global leagues begin to gain modest market shares. Virtual sports and e-gaming leagues also attract consistent real-money gaming (RMG) audiences, pointing to future trends based on immersive user experiences.

Online Sports Betting Motivations

India was rated second globally (with 29%) for player interest in betting and spending money on virtual sports. The willingness to gamble overall (33%) is almost equal to that of sports-related wagering (30%), making it the Union’s preferred real-money game online.

The fact of the matter is that many desi sports fans cannot get enough of their passion and need to be immersed in its context. Sports experiences are simply enriched by online media platforms and betting opportunities.

Surveys have also revealed that the average bettor perceives “traditional” sportsbook channels, online and mobile apps, and fantasy sports leagues as different expressions of the same fan-centred reality. Many are eager to showcase their knowledge and “skill” on the subject and relate to their peers through sports.

Nevertheless, the single most important motivator for online sports betting remains the monetary gain (68%). The fact that skill and chance are finely balanced, just like in real-life sports, attracts 55% of bettors, while the thrill of betting and strategy building unites sportsbook and fantasy sports players (26%).

A Social Phenomenon Gone Online

When Team India plays an ODI, or there is an important global sporting event, nearly 400 million people across the nation are tempted to place a bet. Researchers have established, however, that the regular sports punters are “only” around 140 million. Sadly, to this day, many still have to bet off the record and mostly in cash, as safe and secure options are scarce. Experts estimate that cricket satta revenues of at least Rs 2 lakh crore are lost to the public exchequer every year.

Horse racing bets, a historical heritage of India, have done much to promote cultural acceptance and sector transparency over the years. With the introduction of the flat 28% GST and the emergence of online alternatives, the sustainability of the segment has been threatened. Pandemic limitations on physical presence at the race tracks were the last drop for the niche sport. The Turf Clubs have all started transitioning to online services in an attempt to stand their ground.

With the advent of digital betting platforms, much of the classic sports betting market started dropping cash in exchange for better consumer protection and system stability. Leading operators have invested heavily in their image – in terms of reliability and digital reputation – and the results are there. Online search volumes show that players tend to trust brand names when looking for a betting site, while generic terms gather less traction.

In such a context, fantasy sports leagues have also built up the credibility of the real-money sports gaming market. Domestic and global stars have become partners directly with the sports leagues, advertising the value of in-depth sports knowledge (e.g., the #KheloDimaagSe campaign). For quite a few fans, getting their hands on the prize pool is even a secondary ambition.

Ultimately, the positive influence of mass media and the internet has brought various forms of real-money sports gaming to the forefront. And India’s mobile-first consumers have responded more than positively.

Key Demographics Revealed

Media reports reveal that as much as 80% of the sports betting market in Bharat is cricket-based. The nation’s huge sports gaming pool represents around 90% of the world’s 1 billion cricket fans, according to the ICC.

As diverse as betting communities across India might be, some traits are common for all. To outline the target profile of the desi sports bettor, we have segmented Google Analytics data for over 69 thousand users in the 15 months between June 2020 and September 2021.

Males proved to be the overwhelming majority (84%), and the youngest adults (18-24) had the largest share of all, 41.7%. In fact, users from 18 to 34 generated as much as three quarters of all betting traffic and value (72.6%). Males under 34 alone were 62% of all online punters.

These figures largely agree with global averages. The average age of cricket fans is 34, according to an ICC survey, while 61% are given as male.

When broken down for language used, State of origin and top-ranking cities, we see the following player concentration:

Indian betting numbers broken down on a state level

While English clearly prevails, language results need more contextual interpretation than other datasets. Previous research has stressed the fact that English is spoken well enough by around 12% of the desi population so that it might be used “interchangeably.” 

More than two-thirds of users would gladly rely on local language content, yet these preferences remain hard to track for international betting operators. Crucially, an increasing number of offshore platforms are making the effort these days so that the Indian sports bettor is served in HindiTeluguTamilMarathi or Bengali.

These industry insights also confirm our findings on the bigger and better-developed States and metropolitan areas as being the home of larger player bases. Hyderabad stands above the rest, followed by BengaluruPuneChennai and Delhi.

Big-data data analysis allows us to get a glimpse into some of the aggregated personal interests of registered users. Sports and related news are expectedly on top as the single most relevant content topic. The majority of online sports bettors, however, show an enthusiasm towards a range of contemporary themes – current events, celebrities, entertainment and digital media content.

Among devices used – predominantly smartphones (87%) – desi online bettors most often operate a Xiaomi (30.3%). The top 5 most used mobile brands also include Samsung (21%), Vivo (14.8%), realme (11.1%) and OPPO (10.4%).

Betting companies always look for market potential and ways to serve their customer pools better. Disposable income is essential to a consumer’s ability to play. Upper-middle-income households have the technical and financial means to translate their passions into online gaming, and there are quite a few sports fans among them. These households have been estimated at above 60 million in India (in 2019), around 21% of all households. However, they are also expected to almost triple by 2030, arriving at 44% of all desi households (or 168 million units).

Regardless of economic perspectives – and unlike the market for some other RMG genres – male sports bettors are still likely to outweigh female ones, in a mid-term perspective at least. The market weight of India’s youth will also continue to determine related demand.

Both the 18-24 and 25-36 age groups tend to play sports RMG between 1 and 3 times a week. Somewhat surprisingly, the 37-50 age cohort reported higher engagement rates, as almost half play sports games like fantasy more than four times a week.

Playing frequency decreases at higher income levels, particularly with users who earn more than Rs 10 lakh per year. Those who earn less than Rs 3 lakh pay more often for sports games (over 70%) than any other income category. Within that group, 38% spend more than Rs 500 a month on sports gaming.

Monthly sums spent on fantasy sports platforms – annual income-wise distribution, KPMG

Monthly sums spent on fantasy sports platforms – annual income-wise distribution, KPMG

In light of such behavioural traits, researchers emphasize that money is often considered a form of investment by bettors and sports-RMG players. Playing for money is a way to earn a supplementary income, particularly by lower-income users.

Similarly, metro players bet less than their small-town counterparts. Almost 85% of urban real-money gamers engage between 1 and 3 times per week in sports-related betting. At the same time, 70% of non-metro users play more than 4 times per week.

Latest Trends in Online Sports Gaming

The study also reveals something already mentioned above – the substantial growth of fantasy sports across the Union. Players in the North show the highest reported levels of awareness for these novel genres (at 69%), followed by the West and East. Fantasy gaming is shown to increase fan engagement, leading to an increased consumption of sports-related content. Other sports-based RMG includes certain eSports and a whole range of Simulated Reality Leagues.

Younger generations appreciate the flexibility and immersive nature of this online medium. Others enjoy the fact that it is completely legal. Overall, nearly half of all gamers were said to have played sports games for money in the past year. Many of these games and virtual leagues explore the worlds of football (FIFA), basketball (NBA) or other sports, whether traditionally Indian or not.

These behavioural traits show that the target demographic is exploring and recognizing new forms and crossover channels for sports-based RMG. Betting on one’s knowledge and passion is not monopolized by illegal neighbourhood sportsbook shops anymore. Cricket is also no longer the solitary option on the market.

Industry experts predict tech innovations like AR/VR and 5G connectivity to boost further virtual media content and new-age sports gaming communities. Based on shared experiences, streamed event coverage and a drastically more immersive coverage, we will see those who bet on sports events (whether virtual or real-life) get more actively involved.

Online Bettors Drive India’s Market to Maturity and Global Relevance

The dynamic appeal of sports and the glamorous lifestyle of its stars attract millions globally, and India is not an exception. The aspiration to be a part of this world is often seen in the thirst for more sports content, while the desire to be in control of one’s destiny can take shape as a resolute betting behaviour.

The aspirational lifestyle is not uncommon in other markets, more mature, like the US, Europe or Australia. The search for new forms of sports betting and real-money gaming has led to novel genres that quickly spread through the younger generations.

The influence of mass media, popular online platforms and social media, as well as Western consumer culture, are increasingly noticeable in desi society, now more than ever. Altogether, these trends are likely to elevate India to the rank of a true global player in the world of online sports betting and real-money sports gaming.

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