Betting on Eurovision is a global pursuit. The contest is followed by more people than any other non-sports league or event. It’s a big-money market and lots of betting sites and physical sportsbooks and betting shops accept bets on Eurovision.
This post is all about how to bet on the Eurovision song contest, including details on betting trends and strategy.
The full name of Eurovision is the Eurovision Song Contest, sometimes abbreviated ESC. Eurovision is an international songwriting competition put on annually by the European Broadcasting Union.
The EBU is a group of public media companies that includes more than 130 members in 76 countries. Not every participating country is traditionally “European” – members include media companies in North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
For the Eurovision contest itself, each participating country submits one original song. Each song is performed live on TV and radio, broadcast globally to participating nations. Representatives of competing countries then vote on an overall winner.
Eurovision has taken place every spring since 1956, having been canceled only once in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Each year’s Eurovision contest is hosted by the reigning champion. This opportunity is seen as a major benefit of winning the contest, due to increased tourism dollars and promotion for the host city and nation.
Eurovision is one of the world’s longest-running TV programs, with almost no interruption over the past 68 contests. The contest is the most-watched non-sports event on the global stage, with each year’s iteration drawing hundreds of millions of viewers.
Known for launching the careers of global pop stars like ABBA and Celine Dion, a song that breaks on Eurovision can climb the charts in multiple markets at the same time. It’s a major hitmaker and nations spend big money chasing a victory and a hit song.
Eurovision Betting Basics
Eurovision betting is a form of futures betting. You’re usually wagering on some aspect of the outcome of the overall competition. Think of betting on Eurovision like betting on the Super Bowl or World Series winner.
The most popular way to bet on Eurovision is to bet on an overall winner. Sometimes called a “to win” bet, you’re betting on the winner of the entire contest. Sportsbooks and other betting sites that accept Eurovision bets list odds for each country’s chances to win. Each entrant’s likelihood of winning is handicapped.
How good are the oddsmakers? I checked three different Eurovision betting sites and found that all three correctly picked Italy to win in 2021, and all three were offering around 2/1 odds.
Other bets exist besides “to win” bets, and much like the props section of any sportsbook market, the sky seems to be the limit. Sites take bets on the language the song is written in, whether the winner will be male or female, whether the winner will be a first-time or repeat winner, and all sorts of other variations.
Bettors can also play a parlay-like game, selecting the Top 3, Top 5, or Top 10 winners, with payouts depending on the amount of money bet and the number of correct picks.
Eurovision Betting Trends
With 65 years of data to look at, you can easily use past performance as a template for building a Eurovision betting strategy.
Eurovision has crowned 68 winners from 27 different countries over 65 years. The reason for 68 champions across 65 years is a one-time four-way tie. Before Eurovision invented a tiebreak mechanism, the 1969 competition ended with four songs receiving an equal number of votes. These days, there’s no chance for even a two-way tie, so the 1969 result is a true outlier.
All told, representatives of 52 countries have participated, including some oddball entrants like Australia and Morocco that seem out of place in a supposedly European contest.
Here’s a breakdown of the top-performing nations:
- Ireland – seven wins
- Sweden – six wins
- France – five wins
- Luxembourg – five wins
- Netherlands – five wins
Out of the 52 countries invited to participate since the contest’s inception, 25 have yet to record a win.
Newcomers to the contest don’t fare all that well. Only one country has claimed the win in its debut – Serbia in 2007, in their first year as an independent nation. Ukraine won in their second year of participation in 2004, and Latvia won in their third try in 2002.
The opposite is far more common. It took Greece 31 years to win a Eurovision contest. They did it in 2005, after debuting in 1974. Finland’s 2006 win came after 45 years of participation, and Portugal earned their first Eurovision win in 2017, having premiered in the contest 53 years earlier, in 1964.
If you’re looking for a perennial favorite, check out the UK. You can tell the UK is always in the fight since they have more second-place finishes than any other nation – 15 times overall. Added to their five wins, and they’ve been highly competitive in about 1/3 of all Eurovision contests all-time.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the perennial punching bag Norway. Despite claiming three titles (in 1985, 1995, and 2009), they fare on average far worse than any other single nation. They’ve come in last place more than any other entrant, and they hold the Eurovision record for earning zero points in four different contests.
Back-to-back winners are rare in Eurovision contests. It’s been nearly three decades since a country won back to back. There have only been four repeat winners. Ireland is the only nation to three-peat, winning the contest in 1992, 1993, and 1994. Spain won in 1968 and 1969. Luxembourg was dominant in 1972-1973. Israel also had a big run in the 70s, claiming back-to-back Eurovision titles in 1978 and 1979.
Eurovision Language Trends
In terms of the language of the song’s composition, most winners have been in English. 33 out of 68 winners had lyrics in English. The next most popular language is French, with 14 wins. The drop-off is huge after second-place, as three languages have won just 3 times each – Dutch, Hebrew, and Italian.
The trend in favor of English fell off a bit between 1977 and 1999 when the contest stipulated that the lyrics to each country’s entry had to match their country’s official language. This meant that only Ireland, Malta, and the UK could enter English-language lyrics in the contest. This went on for more than 20 years. In the two decades since the lifting of the language rules, only about 25% of winners have been in languages other than English.
The odds of a Eurovision winner being written in French or English are 1 in 1.45.
The Eurovision “Big Five”
Since 2011, Eurovision has drawn criticism for the creation of “the Big Five,” five countries that earn automatic entry into the contest. The nations of France, Germany, Spain, the UK, and Italy don’t have to compete to gain entry, instead, they’re guaranteed a spot each year. Other nations have to qualify based on a complicated system that can also be used to restrict countries from future competitions due to poor showings.
These countries aren’t necessarily given this gift because they’re dominant in the contest. The Big Five have only won 17 contests, a win rate of 25%. Ireland has won more Eurovision contests than Spain and Italy combined. The reason these nations are given automatic entry has to do with the contest’s finances. These five countries put up most of the cash needed to run a worldwide annual competition with viewership in the hundreds of millions.
Most contests are won by countries outside the Big Five, though these countries are perceived as holding an oversized influence on the contest itself.
A Simple Eurovision Betting Strategy
Futures bets are notoriously tough to handicap and tough to win. I can think of three things you should be doing to prepare yourself for Eurovision betting success:
Do a Little Homework
Eurovision gets a lot of coverage outside of the US. Social media is a good source for public opinion on which entries are strong and which are weak. Since the winner of the contest is partially determined by the public’s vote, it makes sense to take the pulse of the public when strategizing your bet.
You should also consider past winner trends, since there’s not a lot of parity in this competition, and the same half-dozen teams tend to dominate. It’s hard to overlook the overwhelming dominance of English-language songs, for example. That should figure into your handicapping.
You’ll always get better odds early. If you wait until April to pick your winner, you’re going to be facing a tighter and more informed line that’s harder to profit from. Bet as early as you can gather enough information to make an informed choice.
Shop for the Best Odds
This should be common sense – and probably is for sports bettors – but choosing the best possible odds is the easiest way of making more money betting on Eurovision. Think about it this way – if one betting site is offering you 4:1 for the UK to win, and their competitor will give you 5:1, you’d be foolish not to take the better payout. These days, books tend to align their lines, or base their odds off one another’s, so there’s fewer opportunities for line shopping.
Betting on Eurovision is one of the most popular bets outside of the sports world, with participants from all over the world, and hundreds of millions of dollars exchanging hands based on the outcome of a song contest.
While it’s a strange betting market for most sports bettors, based almost entirely on futures and props, it’s growing in popularity thanks to the widespread availability of both the Eurovision contest and the betting markets servicing it.