The coronavirus stalled sports for most of 2020 — and slowed sports betting down. There were fewer games to bet on, as most major sports leagues worldwide were suspended. The American Gaming Association estimated last March that the industry would lose $140 million (₹1.02 billion) in March Madness betting alone, and over $43.5 billion (₹3.17 trillion) for the rest of 2020. This is a massive hit for an industry where $150 billion (₹11 trillion) is wagered annually on a global scale.

But the industry survived as bookmakers diversified by offering, among other things, betting on maximum temperatures in cities and on obscure sports – it helped that bettors wagered on just about anything. And after surviving the height of the pandemic, the industry has set itself up for a big bounce back this year.

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Sportsbooks are right to be bullish in 2021, since inroads in combatting COVID-19 are allowing sports to make a comeback. A few major leagues worldwide, like the NBA and NFL in the US, the English Premier League in the UK, and the Bundesliga in Germany, already resumed play in the latter half of 2020 and are likely to return to normal this year. Tennis and golf – two sports popular among bettors – are expected to have full seasons, too, giving punters more betting options.

The return of live gates in prizefighting ought to give the industry a boost as well, as big-time fights in both boxing and mixed martial arts (always a favourite among punters) will likely be made this year. That's not to mention the soaring popularity of esports, whose audience numbers were forecast to hit 380 million in 2019 (a 14% increase as compared to 2018). Betting on esports has been on the rise, too, with wagers on games projected to hit $12.9 million (₹938 million) — more than double the number of bets placed in esports in 2016.

Sports betting's bright future for 2021 should be expected, as the industry is hailed by Rolling Stone as the 'future of entertainment'. That's because sports betting provides a social environment in which bettors can pit their knowledge of sports against bookies and fellow fans to predict 'hundreds of outcomes inside of one contest'. Equally important, sports betting lets fans connect to sports in a new way, fuelling their passion for sport even more with the added benefit of possibly winning money.

This same environment is also a big reason why sports betting is the next frontier of gambling. ExpatBets in their coverage of different gaming trends highlighted online sports betting as one of the more popular forms of gambling, thanks to the many edges it has over other kinds. Mainly, it is easy to play, as a beginner just needs to remember three components: selection (the type of bet to make), stake (the amount to be wagered), and odds (the likelihood that something will happen). In addition, bettors have a range of sports to choose from and can bet only on the sports they are most familiar with.

Indeed, sports betting has grown to become a most lucrative industry. Statista in their projections about global sports betting reports that the industry's market size reached $203 billion (₹14.8 trillion) in the down year that was 2020. This year, though, is shaping up to be a banner year for sports betting, and that figures to be welcome news for both bookies and bettors.

To keep track of the sports betting industry's performance this year, make sure to follow the Guru Gamer website — the one-stop site for anything related to online gaming.