Football is back, and many fans are eagerly participating in the action by placing bets on NFL games. Bookmakers were banking on an increase in action with the return of football and the early signs point to juicy markets in 2020.
Let’s have a look at how popular NFL betting is expected to be this year and what the early signals for the first bits of actions looked like from the bookmakers.
Betting on the NFL is extremely popular
The American Gaming Association published their national survey results on Americans’ 2020 NFL betting plans just before the season kicked off. According to those results, more than 33 million adults are planning to bet on NFL games this season. That’s a huge number that translates to roughly 13% of the population.
As AGA President and CEO Bill Miller stated in a news release on the survey: “The NFL traditionally drives a significant amount of action from sports bettors, and this year appears to be no different. While we’ve known for a long time that bettors are more engaged fans — particularly when it comes to football — continuing to drive them to the legal market is essential for protecting consumers and the integrity of the games they wager on.”
Let’s look at some of the key numbers that came up in the survey:
34% of respondents planned to place bets on NFL games online (up from 29% last year).
20% of respondents indicated that they will place bets in person at a casino sportsbook (up from 14% last year).
There is an expected decline in participating in casual bets with friends or co-workers (down from 53% to 50%) and in sports pools or paid fantasy contests (down from 31% to 26%) between this year and last year.
The decline in casual betting action is probably due to the fact that 42% of Americans have said that they are less excited than usual about the upcoming NFL season. The most common reasons stated for the decline in interest were increased political activity around football, not having fans in stadiums, and not being able to gather with friends to watch games.
On the contrary, sports bettors are generally more excited about the 2020 season and that shows up in increased action with bookmakers.
18% of respondents in the survey said that they plan to bet with an illegal bookie this year (up from 12% in 2019). In states where there’s no legal sports betting market yet, this is the only option for bettors, while in others with no online markets an illegal bookie might be the more convenient option. This is a challenge that the legal sports betting market needs to tackle.
The NFL is by far the most popular league among bettors – 93% have indicated their interest in the sport in an earlier AGA research. Legal sports betting could net the NFL up to $2.3 billion annually.
NFL betting action is heating up
The opening week of the football season was a highly anticipated event among fans and bookmakers alike. August proved to be a big month for sportsbooks with the NBA and the MLB back in action. But football usually brings in the most action, and we expect to see record-breaking numbers when the September handle reports are released.
There were some early indications of success from the bookmakers during week 1. Rush Street Interactive, who operate the BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse sportsbooks, reported that NFL games were by far the most popular betting events across the markets they are engaged in.
Here’s what the operator reported:
In Indiana, the Indianapolis Colts’ game against the Jacksonville Jaguars accounted for 37% of the total handle for the weekend.
The Philadelphia Eagles attracted 31% of the weekend handle in Pennsylvania in their loss against Washington.
The Chicago Bears’ win against the Detroit Lions was responsible for 22% of the Sunday handle in Illinois.
The New Orleans Saints’ game against Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers accounted for 27% of all NFL Sunday bets across all states where Rush Street Gaming operates.
Public money movements and all of the reports and extensive coverage around NFL betting during the first week of the season point to a market that’s going to shatter some records in 2020.
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