Do you know how many people play fantasy sports? You’re about to find out, and along the way, you might just learn a few other fun facts you didn’t know before. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, nearly 46 million people in the US alone played fantasy sports in 2019.
And those numbers include only people who admit they play fantasy sports, so the actual number is likely much higher. With so many interested people, it won’t be surprising that the online fantasy sports sector is expected to increase revenue significantly in the coming years.
How Many People Play Fantasy Sports?
There isn’t an exact number or estimate of how many people play fantasy sports worldwide. Still, fantasy sports presently have over 60 million players in the United States and Canada. The popularity of fantasy sports continues to rise and shows no signs of slowing down.
- The market size of the US fantasy sports industry was $8.88 billion in 2021.
- Fantasy football is played by 78% of North American fantasy sports players.
- Over 9.1 million users worldwide played the Fantasy Premier League in the 2021-2022 season.
- The Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL) was the first documented fantasy football league.
- In 2019, males accounted for 81% of fantasy sports players, and females for 19%.
- Asian Americans are the largest fantasy sports demographic within the United States.
General Fantasy Sports Statistics
The popularity of fantasy sports has been on the rise recently, including the rise of fantasy sports betting, with many people from the United States participating for monetary gain. The trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon.
1. In 2018, 78% of fantasy sports participants bet on sports.
At the same time, 75% of sports bettors reported they also engaged in fantasy sports betting.
Millions of individuals participate in fantasy sports these days, contributing to the ever-growing fantasy sports market size. The game’s core principle is essentially a form of betting, so it’s little surprise that the majority also dabble in sports betting. Large companies like DraftKnights and FanDuel take billions in participation fees each year.
2. Fantasy football is played by 78% of North American fantasy sports players.
It should come as no surprise that the most popular sport in the States is also the most popular one in the fantasy sports world. It’s, after all, a sport with the most placed bets in the States.
Baseball, the second most popular sport, trails far behind with just 39% popularity. Fantasy NBA, NHL, and soccer follow with 19%, 18%, and 14%, respectively. If you’re looking to up your fantasy football game, check out our guide for top fantasy picks for the season.
3. In 2022, it’s estimated that India will have 160 million fantasy sports players.
The number of fantasy sports players in North America is high but pales compared to India’s 130 million in 2021. With a constant and steady growth of 30 million new players per year since 2019, the trend is expected to continue, and India to reach 160 million players by the end of 2022.
4. With 71% of the player base, cricket is India’s most popular fantasy sport.
Just like in North America, popular real-world sports dominate the fantasy market, too. Interestingly, soccer has 54%, and Kabbadi trailing far behind with 6%.
5. Over 9.1 million users worldwide played the Fantasy Premier League in the 2021-2022 season.
Fantasy Premier League had a humble beginning with only 76,284 users in 2002/2003. But how many people play Fantasy Premier League today? We are looking at a staggering 9.1 million users!
It should be mentioned that there will be some duplicated accounts, and there is no accurate method of knowing how many individuals are behind them. However, it is still indicative of just how popular the Premier League is.
6. Even in states where sports betting was legalized, year-on-year data shows 87% of people play fantasy sports as much or more.
Looking into the history of US gambling (particularly sports betting), we can find that by 2019, 17 states had approved legislation making sports betting legal.
So there was some fear that sports betting would bury fantasy sports. However, data suggests otherwise, and, if anything, the popularity of fantasy sports is on the rise.
The History of Fantasy Sports
It wasn’t always so easy to join in on a fantasy sports event. We take the internet, computers, and smartphones for granted, but our grandparents didn’t have access to such technology.
In its infancy, everything had to be calculated manually, and a roll of dice determined the randomness factor in the fantasy leagues.
We’ve come a long way since then. Today, such information is accessible on our smartphones, and we can easily play with users from around the globe.
7. The Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL) was the first documented fantasy football league.
It all started in 1962, when Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach, a limited partner in the Oakland Raiders, Bill Tunnel, an Oakland Raiders public relations employee, and Scotty Stirling, an Oakland Tribune reporter, met and devised the rules that would serve as the foundation for modern fantasy football.
The next year, the group expanded and organized the first known fantasy football league – GOPPPL. As they would say – the rest is fantasy sports history.
The game was first played privately between friends, but in 1969, one of the group’s founding members took it to his Oakland bar, King’s, where it quickly became popular with the patrons.
8. Rotisserie League Baseball started in 1980.
Daniel Okrent, a magazine writer-editor influenced by the Strat-O-Matic game published in 1961, formed the first fantasy baseball league with a colleague journalist in a New York restaurant called La Rotisserie Française, thus the name Rotisserie League Baseball.
The game’s popularity was largely due to the efforts of the same group. When there wasn’t much sports news, they began writing about their fantasy league, quickly piquing the public’s interest.
9. ESPN launched its online fantasy baseball game in 1995.
(Trib Total Media)
With the internet becoming more widely accessible, the scene was set for the fantasy sports industry to kick off. It all began in 1995 when ESPN launched an online fantasy baseball game, and other companies quickly followed suit. The obsession with fantasy leagues grew so strong that there was even a Fantasy Court where lawyers (yes, only lawyers) could attempt to predict the results of cases.
10. The number of fantasy sports fans in the US and Canada grew by 27.3 million between 2010 and 2017.
Nobody can say how many people played the game back in 1988, but the estimated figure is around half a million. The introduction of new technologies made the game more accessible to the masses, and its popularity rose significantly in North America, especially in the second decade of the 21st century.
More specifically, fantasy sports industry statistics show that there were roughly 32 million North American fantasy league players in 2010, which grew to 59.3 million in 2017.
11. In the United States, the fantasy sports industry grew from 42 million players in 2015 to 45.9 million in 2019.
That shows an increase of almost four million players in four years. More precisely, in 2016, that figure was approximately 42.8 million, increasing to around 43.2 million the following year.
Fantasy Sports Industry Statistics
Fantasy sports is unquestionably a multibillion-dollar industry. Its complete ecosystem includes many elements found in traditional sports, such as branding, sponsorships, and merchandise.
Fantasy sports players contribute massively to the popularity of real sports, too, and both markets feed off each other.
12. As of 2019, there were 646 fantasy sports businesses in the United States.
The number of firms providing fantasy sports services has expanded in tandem with the number of participants. In 2011 around 264 businesses were catering to around 30 million players. The numbers grew steadily, and now the prediction for 2022 is that more than 750 companies will cater to the needs of over 45 million players in the US.
13. Over 50,000 people work in the fantasy sports service sector in the United States.
The number of workers required grew with the increase in popularity and the number of active businesses. The numbers rose steadily and increased by 6.8% over the last five years.
The number of people isn’t as large as one may expect, but it’s still pretty high for an industry that focuses mainly on online presence. It still provides around $3.5 billion in wages annually in the United States alone.
14. The worldwide fantasy sports market is estimated to reach $38.6 billion by 2025.
(Research and Markets)
The global fantasy sports industry is predicted to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.7% from its current value of 22.31 billion in 2021 to 38.6 billion in 2025. North America and Europe are the two largest markets for fantasy sports, with a combined market share of around 70%.
15. The market size of the US fantasy sports industry was $8.88 billion in 2021.
Even during the pandemic, the market size of the fantasy sports sector in the United States gradually increased from 2012 to 2021. It is expected to stagnate somewhat in 2022, owing to rising inflation and the possibility of a prolonged economic recession, but only time will tell.
Fantasy Sports Demographics
It’s no secret that the popularity of fantasy sports is on the rise. Most people think of fantasy sports as a game for Caucasian guys in their 30s. But the demographics of fantasy sports players are actually pretty diverse.
What does this growing trend say about us as a society? Are we all just nerds who love stats and competition, or is there more going on here? We’re not sure we have the answer, but it’s an interesting question to ponder.
16. 15% of US individuals over 21 played fantasy sports at least once during the past year.
This includes 21% of the interviewed males and 8% of the females. 58% of them are aged between 25 and 44, and those who did play were 30% more likely to have a household income over $80,000 per year.
17. In 2019, males accounted for 81% of fantasy sports players, and females for 19%.
Half of all participants were young adults (18-34), and 67% had full-time jobs. Interestingly, these statistics aren’t much different compared to sports bettors. Half of those are between 18 and 34, 80% are men, and 20% are women. Additionally, 67% of sports bettors are employed full-time.
It’s no accident that there is a lot of overlap between sports betting and fantasy leagues – they cater to a very similar audience, and many bettors dabble in fantasy sports leagues and vice versa.
18. Asian Americans are the largest fantasy sports demographic within the United States.
Of all the people who played fantasy sports in the last year, 30% were Asian-American, 18% were African-Americans, 17% were Hispanic-American, and only 12% were Caucasian. The National Football League (NFL) was the most popular sport among all four groups, which comes as little surprise given that 2020’s Super Bowl LIV had over 100 million viewers.
19. In the previous year, 17% of NFL fans played fantasy football.
As expected, this is the highest rate of any other fan base.
- 11% of NBA fans played fantasy basketball.
- 8% of MLB fans played fantasy baseball.
- 7% of NHL fans played fantasy hockey.
The rest of the list somewhat mirrors the popularity of the other three major sports in the US but also presents a growth opportunity: compared to NHL lovers, the fans of basketball, baseball, and hockey seem to be less interested in playing fantasy leagues of their favorite sports.
20. 57% of fantasy players use Instagram significantly more than the general population.
This isn’t as surprising as you would think, given that most fantasy sports businesses operate solely online. Most, if not all, of their users, are internet literate.
Interestingly, 56% of sports bettors also use Instagram more than the general population. This is another example of how sports bettors and fantasy players tend to be a very similar demographic.
Fantasy sports games are hugely popular worldwide, and for a good reason: they allow fans of any sport to put their notions about how to play the game and which players work well together to the test.
Fantasy sports require a combination of creativity and expertise and have a strong competitive element to them. With how many people play fantasy sports these days, it’s no stretch to say that this is a winning formula, especially with sports bettors.
Who invented fantasy sports?
It’s hard to pin such an invention to a single person or a group. Some games dating back to the 19th century resemble fantasy sports, but before the advent of the internet, they mostly fell into obscurity or were not that interesting to begin with.
That said, we probably owe the modern fantasy sports game to Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach and his Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League, the world’s first fantasy football league from 1962.
How big is the fantasy sports industry?
It’s estimated that the current global fantasy sports market is worth around 22.31 billion and will continue to increase and rise to 38.6 billion by 2025.
How many daily fantasy players are there?
Over 59 million individuals participate in daily fantasy sports games. However, the number of those that pay to participate is substantially lower.
Which fantasy sport is the most popular?
In the United States, fantasy football is by far the most popular of all fantasy sports. In India, that would be cricket; in the United Kingdom and most of Europe, it’s soccer. That’s no surprise considering that soccer (or football, as they call it outside of the US) is generally the world’s most popular sport, ahead of basketball and cricket.
How does a fantasy sports company make money?
Fantasy sports businesses make money in a variety of ways. The most common method is through advertisements and sponsorships, but they may collect user participation fees and sell merchandise.
How many fantasy sports users are there?
It’s hard to tell how many people play fantasy sports across the globe, and we don’t have an exact number of users worldwide, as it’s pretty difficult to calculate accurately. Our article mostly covers North America and India, but it should give you a good starting point.
Together, they have over 220 million players, which is more than the combined populations of Russia, Canada, and Australia.