The ascent of online betting helps sportsbook operators analyze user behaviour and understand better the factors that shape the market. Our research team has found out that motivations and interests overlap for many player communities but age, income and regional specifics seem to determine different gamer profiles and types of demand.
The youngest age group (18-24) is also the largest, our data has shown. Young adults follow avidly global sports stars and brand names and contribute to their visibility across India. Their betting behaviour points to the adoption of technology and market trends that define a unique desi sports betting scene.
Betting on sports is currently one of the biggest entertainment segments in the nation, experts agree. India’s ODI’s cause over $200 million to exchange hands on a single game, while the total market size is estimated at up to $150 billion (~Rs 10 lakh crore).
The problem is that many of these transactions are illegal and strictly cash-based (hawala). A few years back, the Justice Lodha Committee proposed legislative steps to make up for missed opportunities and manage social costs but little has been done so far, our study reveals.
Out of around 400 million bettors during major events, some 140 million are regulars. These days, the industry is growing and branching out into niches like fantasy sports and other skill betting. The boom is mostly attributed to affordable mobiles and cheap internet, and has already made online sports betting bigger than music, TV and movies taken as total revenue.
Behavioural research shows that bettors see a parallel between sports being a game of skill and their gaming behaviour. Assessing player ability, game conditions and other factors leaves little to chance, yet desi culture formally recognizes only a few sports niches as legitimate sports betting – horse races and fantasy sports as leading examples.
Why has the market grown so much? Cheap smartphones and data plans have reached over half of the nation, while the growing middle class (mostly middle-aged) spends its disposable income increasingly on premium services like wellbeing, education and gambling.
The next generation of “digital natives” sees online wagering as the only possible kind, giving them an opportunity to bet on any sport, event or star performance around the world. In turn, many leagues and team franchises sign high-profile sponsorship and partnership agreements with media and entertainment platforms, feeding the excitement around major competitions and global events.
Those who cannot get enough sports coverage often go beyond – get involved with team management simulations and virtual leagues. Tech-savvy users were the first to experiment with betting on eSports, even when it had no connection to real-life sporting events. Betting on the outcome of games (“battle arena” a prime example) or simulated sports matches (eCricket, FIFA) is no longer a novelty.
The first desi tech startup able to capitalize on such trends, Dream11, is already worth billions. The nation’s first gaming unicorn has even held the IPL title sponsorship, testifying to the huge visibility and self-sufficiency of fantasy sports. Nowadays, over 100 million Indians play fantasy cricket, football, basketball or even kabaddi.
Younger generations appreciate the flexibility and immersive nature of online fantasy sports, our research has shown. The fact that one can legally participate in cash prize pools and bet on the performance of teams and sports stars makes fantasy a hugely popular branch of real-money gaming.
For many, the game has become a tool that connects their passion for sports and their desire to follow global stars’ performance. It all translates into first-hand competitive gaming experience, well rewarded for those who do their “homework”.
More importantly, this has turned into a potent engagement tool with significant “network effects” for the entire sports ecosystem – boosting viewership, advertisement and digital infrastructure and, ultimately, sports-related revenues.
The fan-engagement power of fantasy sports. Source: KPMG
Investment interest has followed, both domestic and foreign. In this fertile and media-rich environment, some of the nation’s cricket idols often promote the use of one’s abilities and knowledge when playing paid sports games, further legitimizing the industry.
Such a positive influence inevitably leads to the stable growth of real-money sports games. Many sports enthusiasts use them as a way to earn supplemental income. The high-profile image of sports stars, above all, builds the credibility of classic sportsbook as well.
When the leading companies in the fantasy segment (Dream11, 11Wickets, MyTeam11, etc.) partner with various sports leagues, they have proven it to be a smart move. When the IPL runs its own fantasy platform, it signals that one can safely get rewarded for their in-depth knowledge of the sport.
Internet and mass-media coverage has never been the same as well. India’s “love affair” with cricket makes people want more of the game, through various channels. The IPL was also the first major sporting event to have a live YouTube broadcast (in 2010), becoming within a few years the Union’s largest media and advertising subject.
The cross-platform coverage is something that young people approved and quickly took up. In 2020 Disney+ Hotstar introduced Augmented Reality elements. Tech innovations made up for empty stadiums at first but were largely kept even afterwards – fan-enhancing visual spectacles, large-scale AR graphics, landscapes, effects and fan reactions.
Social media feeds have taken these features to unprecedented volumes of coverage and brought younger consumers to the forefront of the sports narrative.
The PureWin research team found concrete proof of the importance of younger sports bettors. Breaking down the gaming activity of 70 thousand users over a 15-month period (June, 2020 through September, 2021), the below table presents aggregate sports betting traffic exclusively from India.
In line with expectations, males represent the overwhelming majority (84%). However, the dominance of the youngest adult group (41.7%) is probably the main highlight. Combined, sports bettors under 34 are responsible for almost three quarters of all sessions and player value (72.6%). Males alone, aged 18-34, were 62% of all users.
In another perspective of player interests, we see that these punters are not motivated exclusively by their passion for sports but also follow news and popular trends in digital media, technology and various entertainment segments. Once again, this is particularly relevant among people under 34. Sports and related news indeed define the leading content type. Then again, sports bettors admit to following plenty of current events, celebrities, entertainment and other digital media.
Since disposable income is needed to regularly bet on sports online, many of the real-money gaming communities are located in larger urban areas (i.e. Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai) and answer to their demand more easily.
Young males are consistently among top betting demographics, both in the 18-24 and 25-34 age cohorts. Three-quarters of them wager up to 3 times a week. Middle-aged players (35-50) might happen to play even more – over four times weekly, on average – but this frequency decreases among those with top income levels.
In the end, passion and engagement turn out more relevant in sports betting and younger players give a serious boost to the market with their active participation.
Digital technology is a cornerstone factor, of course. Affordable hardware and user-friendly software have made most of us accustomed to online environments. Younger generations (Generation Z especially) naturally seek, consume, and bet on sports online, with non-metro users quickly catching up.
Online platforms eliminate the feeling of disruption between virtual sports and real-life events. Some operators have gained so much momentum in India that they have become synonymous with the sport, in cricket above all. As per AC Nielsen, 93% of target users play fantasy and esports on their mobile, many as a way of “being part” of the competitive sports world.
Such immersive crossovers tend to convert sports users from passive to active audiences, our analysts point out. The changing personal preferences, mostly with age, push consumers to explore sports content outside the world of cricket, with novel digital gaming forms only expanding the market.
Motivators for real-money sports gaming add up – from money and excitement to bragging about one’s sports knowledge or gaining first-hand access to more sports content. Being able to consume more sports in various shapes and forms adds value to sports-related games. If that makes the player some money, the experience is rated even better.
Late millennials and early Gen Z users put traditional sports betting on a par with virtual, fantasy and esports wagering (agreed by 69% of gamers). The glamour and appeal of being a winner in sports and in life is often the biggest force behind the passion for online sports betting. Celebrities, film and mass media and the influence of Western consumer culture also do their part. But they find fertile ground in India’s young and tech-aware gamers.