Whether you’re a fan of football, sports betting or both, Malta is the place to be right now. The small island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean has transformed into a sort of sports betting haven in recent years, but its football scene has also been rapidly growing in popularity. Whereas traditional betting shops in other countries often fall behind online casinos, in Malta, both online and in-person betting are having a renaissance of sorts.
Below, we’ll explore just how popular football betting has become, what has contributed to that popularity, and what the projections are for the future of both football and football betting in Malta.
How Popular Is Football Betting in Malta?
Sports betting as a whole is increasingly popular in Malta, and that goes doubly for betting on football. While many other sports (tennis, horse racing, cricket, basketball, rugby, and others) also attract bettors, football betting both attracts the most people and generates the largest chunk of sports betting revenue.
That’s hardly surprising, as football is the most popular sport in Malta, in Europe as a whole, and throughout most of the rest of the world. What is surprising, however, is that football betting wasn’t nearly as popular in Malta just a few years ago. This begs the question – what changed?
What Has Driven This Major Uptick in Popularity?
Football has a long and storied history and has consistently been the most popular sport in the country for decades. While that alone doesn’t explain the recent uptick in the popularity of football betting, the following two facts shed some light on the situation.
Rise of Sports Betting as a Whole
A combination of rapidly evolving digital sports betting technology, a liberal gambling licensing system, and a firm regulatory framework has led to a significant boom in sports betting in Malta. While no gambling law can make everybody happy, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has arguably managed to do what few others have. The MGA has created an environment where casinos and sportsbooks can thrive, and bettors can have a fulfilling experience while staying safe from most fraud and deceitful gambling practices.
This rise in sports betting popularity extends to overall gambling popularity too. Tombola games, the National Lottery, remote gaming, amusement games, and online casinos are all legal and immensely popular in Malta. Online casinos, in particular, are getting a lot of the spotlight recently as advances in digital technologies have allowed a wide range of incredible casino games to be enjoyed easily with no download or no registration required.
This increased interest in sports betting naturally applies to the more popular sports, such as football or basketball, more so than to many of the more niche ones. Still, this alone doesn’t paint the whole picture.
Rise of Football’s Popularity in Malta
The current rise of football betting in Malta can easily be linked to the recent rise of football’s popularity in the country. Football may have always been the most popular sport in Malta, but this has become even truer in recent years now that UEFA officially considers Maltese teams to be professional football clubs. Until recently, UEFA classified them as amateur clubs, which affected the legitimacy of the sport in many people’s eyes.
The reason for the switch was simple – Maltese football clubs had recently started doing a bit better in European competitions, which was enough for UEFA to increase their ranking. However, the change that allowed some Maltese teams to start doing better in European competitions in the first place was the addition of the UEFA Europa Conference League – a new competition that’s a tier below the UEFA Europa League and two tiers below the UEFA Champions League.
The Conference League is the competition in which Malta’s Hamrun Spartans managed to eliminate three teams on their way to the playoffs in 2022 – the most significant European success of any Maltese football club to date. That same year, two other Maltese clubs (Gzira United and Hibernians) also managed to reach the third qualifying round of the Conference League.
Prior to the creation of the Conference League, Maltese clubs managed some stray wins here and there in the Europa League. Still, they couldn’t showcase a consistent enough run of form for UEFA to classify them as professional football clubs.
Another considerable factor is that the Maltese Premier League is arguably one of Europe’s most competitive leagues. While other major European leagues may boast a higher overall quality of players and teams, most leagues have one or two clear favourites for the title, making betting there somewhat dull. In the Maltese Premier League, however, figuring out who will lift the trophy at the end of the year is much trickier and, therefore, significantly more exciting.
Lastly, we should also keep in mind that football betting in Malta isn’t done just for Maltese football. Bettors in the island country also love betting on many of Europe’s major football leagues, especially those in nearby Italy, France, and Spain.
How Significant Is This Trend, and Will It Continue?
As long as the current liberal legal framework regarding gambling and sports betting doesn’t change, one can safely assume that the future of football betting in Malta is bright. Currently, Malta’s online sports betting market is expected to reach a total sports betting revenue of 14,02 million USD in 2024. The market is also expected to grow by about 5.56% between 2024 and 2028, projecting a 2028 revenue of around $17.41. The expected number of bettors by the end of 2028 is approximately 22,500.
Figures like these may not seem all that impressive to people from other countries. However, when you consider Malta’s population is only 518,536, the above figures are, in fact, quite spectacular.