Despite more legal sportsbooks, about 5 million fewer Americans will be betting on the NFL this season, according to the American Gaming Association.
There are multiple reasons for fewer eyes on the NFL this year. Forty-two percent of respondents cited lower enthusiasm for the season because of increased political activism, no fans in the stands and the inability to gather with friends to watch games.
But sports bettors are still plenty excited. More than half of all bettors, 54%, said they’re excited about the upcoming season. That compares to 41% for general NFL fans, 18% for the general population and 12% for casual fans.
“The NFL traditionally drives a significant amount of action from sports bettors, and this year appears to be no different,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said. “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.”
Breaking down 2020’s NFL betting
Here’s how the AGA expects NFL betting to shake out this season:
- 6.6 million will bet at physical sportsbooks. That’s down from 6.8 million last year.
- 11.3 million will bet through legal and illegal online platforms, up from 11 million in 2019.
- 6 million bettors will place a bet with a bookie. That’s up from 4.6 million.
- 8.6 million will bet casually through pools, fantasy contests and squares. That’s down from 11.8 million.
- Finally, 16.6 million will bet casually with friends, family and coworkers. That’s down from 20.1 million in 2019.
Some of the trends are understandable, like fewer in-person bettors, given social distancing efforts. The growth in bettors using bookies is a concern, especially with more than a third of US jurisdictions now offering legal sports betting. Others are still pending launch, like sports betting in Virginia and Tennessee.
Whether these bettors actually know if they’re betting with a legally licensed sportsbook or not is another issue. More than half of all US sports bettors bet with an illegal sportsbook last year and most thought they were betting with a licensed operator.