The summer of discontent has at long last come to an end for America’s operators of regulated U.S. sports betting.
Not that Major League Baseball and its 162-game schedule won’t create some excitement in October when the playoffs and World Series roll around, but you have to admit that there’s really nothing quite like the old pigskin to get the adrenaline flowing.
Professional and college football are already in full swing, and will be through the first part of February 2023 – just about a week away from the time pitchers and catchers are reporting for spring training.
It means nearly five and a half months of competition that is not just about games; it’s about events for which excitement has a week to build up, where the results of every match-up are impactful, where rivalries and traditions level the playing field, and where stadiums filled with upwards of 100,000 wildly cheering fans care about nothing short of winning.
States with populations who have no professional sports teams to wrap their arms around endear themselves to the college or university football team of their choice, which brings a greater percentage of Americans into the game.
This columnist recalls fondly the long-ago Saturday early morning when I placed a call to Omaha, Nebraska farmer Orville D. Kemling to conduct an interview about a thoroughbred he bred, owned, and trained, and was sending to Chicago’s now defunct Sportsman’s Park for a stakes race.
Orville answered his cell and said I caught him while he was operating his combine out in the fields for harvest time. He graciously agreed to talk about his horse, but cautioned he’d have to cut the interview a little short because he had to head to Lincoln for the Nebraska football game, saying “The whole state of Nebraska shuts down on game day”.
Yes, sir, there’s nothing like football season, that very special time of year for sports book operators to beat the drums about big games that are held every single week, and even bigger games as the leaves begin to tumble with the official start of autumn.
The only sporting event that gives the National Football League’s playoffs and Super Bowl a run-for-the-sports bettors’ money is the collegiate world’s March Madness of NCAA basketball frenzy.
Be that is it may, the American Gaming Association (AGA), in conjunction with an online survey conducted by Morning Consult among 2,210 American adults from August 25-27, 2022, released absorbing data regarding their betting plans for the upcoming NFL season.
The results of the survey revealed a record 46.6 million American adults (18 percent) plan to bet on NFL games, an increase of three percent year over year.
The potential for growth is evident when you factor in that more than half (132 million) of American adults can legally wager in their home state – 18-million more than at this time last year.
As short a period of time as five years ago, prior to the landmark United States Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for state-sanctioned legal gambling on sporting events, there were in all likelihood millions of Americans who bet on the games in one form or another, albeit illegally.
When it became a legal practice, sports book operators found a ready and willing audience. Many participants were already knowledgeable about sports betting, and those that weren’t, were eager to be educated.
Fantasy leagues, “squares”, and similar football wagers among friends and family members were part of home, office, and “watering hole” culture for decades.
In spite of the legality, the AGA’s survey revealed that there will still be 13 percent of NFL bettors who will go to a bookie. The figure is down two points from last year (15 percent) and five points down from 2020 (18 percent).
Understandably, the survey discovered that among states that still haven’t passed legislation to conduct legal sports wagering, bookie usage is 50 percent higher.
Twenty-three million people will place a bet online this season, a dramatic 18 percent increase over a year ago. Another six million will place bets in-person at a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, up two percent over a year ago.
As it stands today, sports betting is legal in 36 states and Washington D.C. Thirty-two jurisdictions are already operating operational markets.
The new states that have come on board since the start of the 2021 NFL season include Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, and Wisconsin.
It is interesting to observe that 18 of the 22 states that are home to NFL teams have legalized sports betting.
Sports betting is a burgeoning sector of the gambling industry. In the first seven months of 2022, the AGA reports $50.4 billion in sports wagers across the nation, generating more than $809 million in federal, state, and local taxes: A bonanza for revenue-strapped states.
Legal sports betting is a fact of life that is impossible to escape. Electronic media advertising blitzes, partnerships with professional sports franchises and even the leagues themselves, and professional athlete spokespersons combine to give the industry a legitimacy all its own.
You knew it was going to be bigtime long before it was introduced. For years, when the only ways you could bet was through a bookie or in Las Vegas, newspapers across the country carried the point spreads and injury reports for all of the games.
Today, electronic media coverage of the games includes conversations with betting experts and in-depth analysis of the odds, prop bets, point spreads, and up-to-the minute game day reports.
Placing bets has become as much a part of our sports culture as watching the games themselves and rooting for our favorite teams.
After all, who can deny that “having a little skin in the game” adds a new dimension to the excitement threshold?