If there was any doubt whether bettors would return when the NFL resumed play with butts in the stands, that doubt vanished with the opening week of the season. Lengthy lines of gamblers stretched to the casino floors in the hour before the 10 a.m. kickoff, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“At 9 a.m., the levee broke, and the book was slammed and remained that way all day,” Westgate SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay said. “There was no doubt the numbers and energy easily surpassed last year.”
At Red Rock Resort, fans cheered when Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie returned the opening kickoff 75 yards against the Steelers. They cheered even louder when the Steelers came from 10-0 to upset the Bills as an underdog.
“One of the louder opening days in pro football that I can remember,” Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said.
Jerry Arnold, a supervisor at the FanDuel sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey, just outside New York City, said one trend is clear, according to the Associated Press.
“A lot of people having a lot more money,” he said. “They’re getting unemployment or stimulus checks and they want to double or triple their money. They say that all the time: ‘I just got a check and I’m going to make it double.’”
FanDuel is the official odds provider for The Associated Press.
More than 45 million Americans say they plan to bet on the NFL season this year, according to the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s national trade group. That’s an increase of 36 percent from last year.
The AGA attributes the percent increase in part to the expansion of legal sports betting and increased enthusiasm for the upcoming season.
Casual betting among friends expects to grow 31 percent over last year.
It’s also no big surprise that many millions of betting fans are choosing convenience and reliable name brands. Some 19.5 million anticipate betting online, a 73 percent gain over 2020. Another 14.6 million will take part in fantasy sports contests and sports pools. That’s up 69 percent. Estimates predict 10.5 million people will visit a retail casino sportsbook, a rise of 58 percent, according to CDC Gaming Reports.
“Fans are the heartbeat of professional sports and leagues like the NFL are realizing the full potential of sports betting to drive fan engagement, AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said. “To capitalize on this tremendous opportunity, the NFL and its 32 teams must also realize their responsibility to educate fans and promote responsible gaming.”
The explosive growth of the sports betting industry is making things worse for some people with gambling problems, as the industry is coming up with new ways to bet on sports, including live micro-betting on the outcome of things like the next possession in a football game.
Earlier this year, a study by the National Council on Problem Gambling found an increase in “problematic” gambling, particularly among young online sports bettors.
“This spike in problems related to gambling reflects both the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of the massive increases in sports betting and online gambling availability in more than half the country, accessibility through mobile devices and widespread advertising,” said Keith Whyte, the group’s executive director.
In its own NFL sports betting report, Truist Securities said the move from 16 games to 17 this year will increase betting volumes.
“Though a marginal increase we note operators should be pleased with one additional week of betting volumes,” Truist said.
Sports betting is also getting a boost from the 52 data-sharing and marketing partnerships the NFL and its teams formed since May 2018, analysts said. Last season from football alone, Truist estimated $560 million to $580 million of gross gaming revenue was generated on $7.7 billion to $8 billion of total handle.
This will be the first NFL season with legal betting in Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, Wyoming, Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Maryland.
Based on week one of the NFL season, the league and its broadcast partners did very well. The league’s sportsbook partners and advertisers bought 90 total advertising units across NFL games on CBS, Fox, and NBC spending $21.4 million, according to Sportico. The majority of the ads ran during nationally televised Thursday and Sunday night games, according to Awful Announcing.
FanDuel bought 42 in-game ads behind only Geico, Progressive, and DirecTV in terms of overall ad units. 52 spots aired on CBS, 27 on Fox, and 11 on NBC. There were no sportsbook ads during ABC and ESPN’s MNF telecast of the Ravens-Raiders game.
BetMGM was the only other sportsbook who bought in-game advertising, dropping around $2.7 million for nine ads, seven of which aired during Sunday afternoon on CBS.
Right now, networks have been given the discretion to run up to six gambling ads per game, which usually comes out to one during pre-game, one per quarter, and one at halftime. Whether or not that changes over time as the sector grows remains to be seen.
Gambling was the sixth biggest ad category behind insurance, cars, streaming services, quick-service restaurants, and wireless services. The ads could earn $400 million in revenue this season for leagues and their partners.
All this make investors feel tickled green. With the NFL season just begun, shares of DraftKings, Penn National Gaming Inc., and Caesars Entertainment Inc. have gained more than 20 percent in the past three weeks with predictions college and professional football bets will triple from a record last year.
With six additional states, a flood of new users is surfacing. Both online sportsbooks and traditional casinos anticipate $1.5 billion in revenue based on projections by PlayUSA, a guide for legal gambling, according to Bloomberg.
“It’s very seldom to see the market segment grow in front of you so quickly,” said Yaniv Sherman, U.S. head of betting platform 888 Holdings Plc. “There’s no way around it. The U.S. represents the biggest regulated online gaming opportunity in recent history.”
By 2025, the total value of wagers placed in the U.S. could reach $180 billion, according to an analyst with Cathie Wood’s ARK Investment Management LLC. Wall Street doesn’t expect companies will see profits until at least 2024. Sportsbooks can make money by moving odds, hoping for a balance on both sides of the wager.
Shares of DraftKings are only expected to gain 13 percent over the next 12 months, according to price target data compiled by Bloomberg.
“There will be massive sector growth, but the reason to be skeptical in the medium-term is that you can’t spend more money than you’re making forever,” said Jason Ader, chief executive officer at SpringOwl Asset Management.