5 niche sports you didn't know you could bet on

Sqore compiled a list of five niche sports you didn't know you could bet on. There is nothing one can't take a chance on, it seems. 

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Five reindeer pulling a person on a sled in traditional reindeer sleigh racing on a frozen lake.

Art Konovalov // Shutterstock

Sports betting in the United States has exploded into a nearly $10 billion market in the six years since it became legal outside of Nevada.

The three major professional leagues in North America—the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball—dominate the action, but you can make (or lose) money on plenty of other games.

Sqore compiled a list of five niche sports you didn't know you could bet on. It might not be advisable without that insider information, but small wagers on these one-of-a-kind offerings would only push their already elite entertainment credentials over the top.

From jai alai to mountain unicycling, there is a sport for every bettor. These activities, featuring varying degrees of professionalism, are all unique, fascinating, and just plain fun. Think of the quadrennial popularity of curling, which shines when the Winter Olympics roll around but otherwise flies under the radar.

While betting on NFL games, for example, is a fool's errand because of sharp lines, early professional wagers, and the number of eyes on every aspect of the contests, betting on reindeer racing or cow chip tossing might just be worthwhile. You could catch bookmakers unaware if you have a particular passion that translates to special knowledge. Gambling is, however, still always a matter of conducting exhaustive research, playing it safe with your bankroll, being selective, and—perhaps most importantly—getting lucky.

Reindeer racing

Four reindeer pulling a person on a sled run in the snow.

Serge Reshar // Shutterstock

Reindeer racing has become a must-see since the first championship event in Tromsø, Norway, in 2005. Akin to horse racing, the sport features jockeys on skis hanging on to reins for dear life as the animals hurtle down a snowy, icy track at speeds exceeding 30 mph. The Sámi festival in Tromsø, which celebrates Indigenous culture, hosts the top-flight competition, with races on Grønnegata, a main street in the city.

It's as thrilling and dangerous as it sounds. It's serious, too, as thousands of dollars can be on the line. The sport debuted at the Nordic Games in 1901 and is popular in the Arctic Circle, including Scandinavia, Russia, and Alaska, home to a running of the bulls-style event.

Quidditch

Quidditch players during a match at the International Quadball Association World Cup.

Federico Magonio // Shutterstock

Quidditch—it's not just for Harry Potter and his mates. Though players don't fly around in the air on magic broomsticks (yet), they do adhere to the fictional rules as much as possible.

The sport was rebranded as quadball in 2022, and International Quadball Association members sanction events around the world. The coed competition names gender identity in its bylaws and supports the nonbinary and transgender communities.

Teams field four chasers, who try to throw a volleyball through hoops; two beaters, who try to impede their opponents' chasers by hitting them with dodgeballs; and a seeker, whose goal is to snag a flag—a stand-in for the Golden Snitch—off the belt of a neutral party. The capture of it can end the match or signal overtime.

Cow chip tossing

Cow chips stacked in nature along a dusty path.

Aayushmaan sharma1 // Shutterstock

Across the Great Plains and beyond, cow chip tossing is big time. Wisconsin's nose-scrunching tradition dates back over 50 years. The Iowa State Fair awards $5 to winners. One Minnesota contestant realized there was no better way to scatter a crowd than to forsake the competition and throw a pie-shaped cow dung into densely packed spectators.

But Beaver, Oklahoma, is the Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World. If a website that conjures the 1990s doesn't prove it, the most ridiculous nine minutes you've ever spent will. "It's crucial that before you throw the chip, you shake the poo out of it," multi-time champion cow chip chunker Dana Martin said.

Mark your August calendar.

Jai alai

A player walks off the court after a jai alai match at Casino Miami.

Tom Szczerbowski // Getty Images

First played in the Basque region of Spain in the 14th century, jai alai, or cesta punta, for "tip basket," is known as the fastest ball game in the world. Competitors use reed baskets that resemble large sloth claws to launch a small sphere toward a wall at nearly 200 mph. It's a punishing sport—the balls have to be repaired or retired after 20 minutes.

Participants must scoop up the ball following their opponent's throw before it bounces once or twice and fling it back at the wall in one smooth motion. The sport was a huge hit in the United States after its introduction at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. Decades later, it featured prominently in the opening credits of "Miami Vice."

Mountain unicycling

A group of unicyclers on the paths of the Croix de Chamrousse, a summit in the French Alps.

Pierre Jean Durieu // Shutterstock

Mountain unicycling is precisely what it sounds like. It's only been around since the 1980s, but muni, as it's known, is perhaps the most extreme sport on this list. It's not easy to ride a unicycle on uneven terrain, so the community is small, but it's tight-knit.

True to its origins, it retains its West Coast vibe: minimalistic, free-spirited, challenging, and unique. It's also expensive—a uni can cost thousands of dollars—but it's an effective exercise, requiring strength, balance, and coordination.

Muni is big in Australia and parts of Europe, and its disciples tout the sport's problem-solving ethic. Competitions feature cross-country, uphill, and downhill events.

Story editing by Carren Jao. Additional editing by Kelly Glass. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.

This story originally appeared on Sqore and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.






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