Touchdown Sports Betting — NFL’s First Week This Season Whets Legal Betting Appetite

September 15, 2021

By Deepti Govind

It’s the first week of the National Football League (NFL) and the season is already smashing some non-football records. The games have generated a record volume of legally placed sports bets since the season began on Thursday night, i.e., Sept. 9, through to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12. These numbers, while not definitive, further cement a trend that the country has been witnessing in the recent past: a spike in legal online sports betting. It also goes to show that consumers have long hungered to place sports bets legally.

GeoComply Solutions, a Canadian tech company referenced by most in the legal U.S. sports betting industry, reported 58.2 million geolocation transactions across 18 states and Washington, D.C. between when the season began and Sunday evening. That marks a 126% increase from the same period of the 2020 NFL season, when GeoComply processed 25.8 million transactions. Last Tuesday, the American Gaming Association (AGA) said a record 45.2 million Americans would wager on the 2021 NFL season, per its annual survey on the nation’s betting plans. That number is a 36% increase from those who said they would place bets in the 2020 season.

Only earlier this year, Americans placed a record $4.3 billion in bets on Super Bowl LV, marking “the largest single-event legal handle in American sports betting history,” the AGA said.

The AGA’s NFL survey also predicted that although betting on the game is expected to be up across all wagering methods, betting with online sportsbooks is expected to see the largest increase when compared with the 2020 season. Thanks to the legalization of sports betting across an increasing number of states, illegal bookies are expected to see the slowest growth. “We expected high volumes, but what we have seen has surprised us nonetheless,” Lindsay Slader, a managing director with GeoComply, told CBS News.

New Jersey had the highest volume of sportsbook transactions, followed by Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Illinois, according to the GeoComply data, an ESPN report said. Arizona’s sports betting market was launched just hours before the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the 2021 NFL season. In just its first weekend of legal sports betting, Arizona has already catapulted into the top five list. On its first day of sports betting, the state wagered more than even mature markets like Michigan, Colorado, and Tennessee at the FanDuel Sportsbook, CBS News said, citing spokesman Kevin Hennessy.

More than 271,000 newly created sportsbook accounts in Arizona accounted for over 6.1 million transactions during the four days, according to GeoComply. New Jersey led the list with 12.5 million transactions, doubling Arizona’s total. But this level of demand in new markets like Arizona indicates consumers have “long waited for the option to legally place a sports bet,” GeoComply’s Slader added per CBS News.

GeoComply’s solutions are used by most U.S. betting firms as part of the process of verifying its users are who they say they are. Its data records the number of times it was called on to verify a customer’s location, and is considered a good indicator of at least a minimum level of sports betting activity. Over 80% of that sports betting activity happens online in the U.S., says the CBS News report.

The NFL, NCAA, and other sports have been witnessing “skyrocketing” betting activity in recent years. That’s both a result, as we mentioned earlier, of more states legalizing sports betting, and of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has changed the way much of the world lives and, among other things, bumped up the popularity of online sportsbooks.

State Of The States

Map from the American Gaming Association showing the status of legalization of sports betting in the U.S. state-wise.
Image Source: Screengrab of the AGA’s map on sports betting in the US
“Live, Legal” denotes states where single-game sports betting is legally offered to consumers through retail and/or online sportsbooks. States classified as “Legal – Not Yet Operational” have authorized sports betting, but have yet to launch. “Active or Pre-Filed Legislation” denotes jurisdictions where bills to legalize single-game sports betting have been pre-filed/introduced in the state legislature or where a voter referendum is scheduled. Sports betting provisions, revenue, and location data are sourced from state regulatory agencies.

In total, 26 states and the District of Columbia currently have legalized sports betting markets that are live, according to the AGA. In other words, over half the United States now offers legal sports betting, just three years after it was permitted by the Supreme Court. As many as five additional states are expected to offer such bets before the season ends with the Super Bowl in February.

At the start of last year’s football season, there were 18 states with legal sports betting markets. Today, some of the biggest markets, including California and Florida, are moving toward legalization, with New York planning to adopt mobile sports betting at some point. New Jersey won a Supreme Court case in 2018, clearing the way for any state to adopt legal sports betting.

Last month, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board on Thursday, Aug. 19, approved emergency rules to kick-start sports betting in the state as early as mid-September, just in time for the latest NFL season to begin. North Carolina also took a significant step in legalizing online and in-person wagers on professional, college, electronic, and amateur sports in August. The State Senate passed SB 688 in a largely bipartisan 26–19 vote, and sent the bill to the House for approval. Lawmakers and industry leaders in Oklahoma are also calling for the legalization of sports betting.

In June, we wrote that monthly operator revenue at sportsbooks across the country came in at $318 million, the highest nationwide win rate for this year, and only the fourth time that the number has clocked in higher than $300 million since the aforementioned Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) law was struck down. The operator revenue and $48.4 million in tax receipts for June were both also the third-highest monthly totals in the post-PASPA era.

In August, we wrote that nationwide commercial gaming revenue from traditional casino games, sports betting, and iGaming came in at $13.64 billion in the second quarter of 2021 (Q2 2021), smashing the industry’s previous best-ever record from Q3 2021 by a whopping 22.5%, per the AGA’s Q2 Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker. Those numbers suggested that 2021 is on track to become the highest-grossing year in gaming history. Sports betting generated $888.9 million in Q2 2021, an increase of more than 600% over Q2 2019. 

Here are some other stats from the AGA’s 2021 NFL betting survey that further underscore the immense growth in legal sports betting across the nation:

  • 21.7 million American adults will bet on the 2021 NFL season casually with friends, up 31% from 2020
  • 19.5 million will place a bet online, up 73% from 2020
  • 14.6 million will participate in a paid fantasy contest or other type of pool competition, up 69% from 2021
  • 10.5 million will place a bet at a physical casino sportsbook, up 58% from 2020
  • 6.7 million will place a bet with a bookie, up 13% from 2020

In conclusion, while the expansion of legal sports betting is a huge opportunity for sports fans to engage with their favorite teams in a new and fun way, it’s equally important to also remember to bet responsibly. For more information on how you can ensure you, or your loved ones, are betting responsibly, we’d urge you to take a look at AGA’s Have A Game Plan.

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