Thursday night’s kickoff at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles signals more than the start of the NFL regular season. It’s also the beginning of the country’s most popular sports-betting period.
More than 46.6 million American adults, or 18 percent of the adult population, say they will place a bet during this year’s NFL season, according to a new survey for the American Gaming Association. That’s up 3 percent from 2021. Almost half the bettors, 49 percent, plan to bet online, up 18 percent from last year. About a quarter, 23 percent, will bet in person at a sportsbook, up 2 percent from 2021.
“There’s no doubt that football, and the NFL in particular, is the biggest sport in the U.S.” David Forman, AGA’s vice president of research, told CDC Gaming Reports.
The AGA predicts legalized sports-betting revenue will set another record this year. Sports-betting revenue at commercial casinos totaled $3.04 billion for the first six months, up 63.9 percent from the same period last year, with same-market revenue up 12.2 percent.
Casinos took in more than $50.4 billion in sports bets from January through July, and Forman said the handle for all of 2022 will be “somewhere close” to $100 billion. “I don’t know if I would take the over or the under on that,” he added.
AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement that the interest in betting on the NFL “reflects the growth and continued maturation of legal sports betting across the country.”
Sports betting has exploded since 2018, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed states outside Nevada to regulate it. Now, 31 states and the District of Columbia – encompassing more than half of the country’s adult population – offer legal sports betting, and five other states have approved but not yet launched it. Eighteen of the 22 states with NFL teams have legalized sports betting.
Forman said the hold for sportsbooks, traditionally about 4.5 percent, can be 7 percent to 9 percent in states where sports betting is new. That falls somewhat as bettors become more experienced.
The survey found that 89 percent of respondents who placed a bet in the past year consider using a legal sportsbook as “very” or “somewhat” important. The use of unregulated bookies or offshore sportsbooks is falling as legal sports betting grows, Forman said. The survey found that 13 percent of NFL bettors planned to use a bookie, down two points from last year and five points from 2020. Bookie usage is 50 percent higher in states without legalized sports betting, the survey said.
The AGA has designated September as Responsible Gaming Education Month, and a separate survey shows that 92 percent of U.S. sports bettors know of tools for responsible gaming.
Forman said the expansion of the legal sports-betting market also expanded awareness of responsible gaming. The survey found that 90 percent of sports bettors recalled seeing or hearing about responsible gaming in the past year, while 51 percent found more responsible-gaming information available in the past 12 months than they had in previous years.
“Consumers clearly want legal sports betting options and understand the regulated industry’s foundational commitments to responsibility,” Miller said.
The margin of error for each poll is plus or minus 2 percent.
For the poll on NFL betting trends, bettors include those who expect to place a bet online, with a bookie, with a casino sportsbook, in a pool, squares or paid fantasy contest, or casually with family or friends. The polling firm, Morning Consult, conducted an online survey Aug. 25-27 among a national sample of 2,210 American adults and weighted their data to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, education, gender, race, and region.
For the poll on responsible gaming views, Kantar conducted an online survey Aug. 17-23 using a nationally representative sample of 2,000 American voters age 21 and over.
The Morning Consult survey showed that the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the most popular picks among bettors for winning the NFL championship, with 9 percent picking each team. Oddsmakers also favor those two teams. The 2023 Super Bowl, in February at the home stadium of the Arizona Cardinals, will be the first time the championship game is played in a state with legal sports betting.