Legal Sports Report

College Football Betting 2020

Betting on football is the biggest part of the growing US sports gambling market. That’s due largely to tremendous interest in betting on the NFL, but also because of the games that take over Saturdays in the fall for sports fans: college football.

Read on for more information about betting on college football legally in the US and the market for it in the states.

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Where can you legally bet on college football in the US?

College football betting used to be legal only in Nevada. But now, it’s legal in a variety of states around the country.

Here’s the current list of states where you can bet on sports, in general, (or will be able to in the near future), and wager specifically on college football:

StateIs sports betting legal?Is online sports betting legal?
ArkansasYesNo
DelawareYesYes, launch undetermined
IndianaYesYes
IowaYesYes
MississippiYesYes, on-property only
MontanaYes, pending launchYes, pending launch
NevadaYesYes
New JerseyYesYes
New MexicoYes, at multiple tribal casinosNo
New YorkYesNo
North CarolinaYes, pending launchNo
OregonYesYes
PennsylvaniaYesYes
Rhode IslandYesYes
TennesseeYes, pending launchYes, pending launch
Washington DCYes, pending launchYes, pending launch
West VirginiaYesYes

A number of states have considered either a ban on collegiate sports entirely or a ban on betting on events involving schools in that state.

New Jersey is the only state where a ban on in-state collegiate events and in-state colleges exists. Nevada used to have a ban on betting on in-state schools — UNLV and the University of Nevada — but that ban has since been rescinded.

Here is a quick look at college football betting in some key states:

College football betting in Nevada

If you want to bet on college football in Nevada, you’re in luck, because there is no shortage of options. More than 100 sportsbooks are available; many in the population centers of Las Vegas and Reno.

Almost every sportsbook also offers a betting app where you can wager.

There is also a bowl game in the state every year: the Las Vegas Bowl. It pits teams from the Mountain West Conference and the Pac-12 Conference.

College football betting in New Jersey

College football betting is undoubtedly a big part of the pie in New Jersey, because of the massive interest in college football generally.

But that is not because of interest in the in-state teams. Rutgers sometimes makes a bowl game but is usually not a player on the national scale.

Some of the online sportsbook options in New Jersey include:

College football betting in Pennsylvania

There are a lot of colleges in PA, so that should mean lots of interest in betting on them legally.

However, one college stands alone in fandom in the state: Penn State. It’s a huge state school that draws fans from across the state, even if they didn’t attend.

Penn State is often in the upper echelon of the Big Ten and ranked nationally, although it has never made the College Football Playoff. It has won the national title, but it hasn’t in decades.

Other schools, like Pitt, Temple and Villanova, also draw rooting and betting interest in the state.

Here are the options for online sportsbooks in Pennsylvania:

College football betting in West Virginia

Every other sport pales in comparison to West Virginia football in the Mountaineer State. And that’s especially true for betting on WVU football.

In fact, WV football is so big that it’s likely to be the single biggest driver of betting handle and revenue in the state.

Marshall University is also significant in West Virginia, and the team usually fields a competitive and sometimes very good football team that will draw betting interest.

Right now, there are two options for betting on college football online in WV:

College football betting in Iowa

Iowa is one of those states where betting on college football should be massive, especially as online betting gains traction.

The two-state schools, Iowa and Iowa State, are often excellent programs. And Nebraska, another program with a rabid fanbase, is just over the border, as well.

College football betting in Indiana

Indiana is another state with a lot of interest in betting on college football, mainly because it is the home to Notre Dame. The private school is routinely in the national championship hunt and is a favorite to watch nationwide. Its home state makes betting on Notre Dame football big business.

Indiana and Purdue also field football teams and should draw a lot of betting interest from Indianans.

College football betting in Oregon

Oregon will not have college sports betting on the app from the state lottery. However, you will be able to bet on college sports at any tribal casino that opens up a sportsbook in the state.

Where does the NCAA stand on sports betting and betting on college football?

The group that oversees college athletics has been staunchly against betting on college sports for all of its existence; however, it has at least relaxed its stance in recent years.

The NCAA is still advocating for a federal ban on betting on collegiate events, or in state-level laws whenever possible. That’s despite the fact that there are billions of dollars already wagered on collegiate sports on the black market via local bookmakers and offshore sportsbooks that serve the US illegally.

Short of that, the NCAA and its member schools think the ban on in-state games for any state legalizing sports betting is also preferable.

The NCAA was the lead plaintiff in the federal court case that led to the end of the federal sports wagering ban. It joined the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL as plaintiffs in the case against New Jersey, which was attempting to prove that the ban was unconstitutional.

While some of the professional leagues evolved their stance on legal and regulated betting before and in the wake of that decision, the NCAA has not.

The market for college football betting

It’s difficult to come up with exact numbers for how much Americans bet on college football.

Our best data comes from Nevada, where we know betting on football, in general, is king of all sports. The state does not break down wagering by pro and college football. But anecdotally, the breakdown between the two is about 50-50.

While betting on the NFL is more popular, in general, there are more games at the collegiate level. There are more than 100 teams in the top echelon of college football — the Football Bowl Subdivision — with most of those playing on any given Saturday. That gives bettors more games they might be interested in betting on.

That dynamic could be different in other states, in that college betting could be more popular. The college teams in Nevada are not terribly good or popular in any given season, so interest in betting them is often muted.

But college football is hugely popular in many of the states that are legalizing sports betting. That’s especially true in the Midwest and the South, where there often isn’t a hometown pro football team to cheer for and bet on.

That includes the likes of West Virginia, Iowa, Indiana and Mississippi, where all have seen brisk college football betting as gambling became legal in each of those states.

As far as the illegal, offshore market go, again, good estimates are difficult to come by. The universe for all betting is tens of billions to $150 billion, depending on who is making the estimate. Certainly, billions are being wagered via illegally operating sportsbooks and bookmakers every week on college football.

College football schedule and the biggest windows for betting

The college football season ebbs and flows, and betting on it will do so as well. Here’s a look at how the calendar goes every year:

  • Early season: When football returns, people love to get action on the games. While meaningful games are often in short supply early in the season, that doesn’t stop people from betting on games.
  • Conference rivalries and top-25 matchups: Throughout the season, some games are bigger than most. When traditional rivalries take place in the Power 5 conferences— the SEC, the Big 10, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the ACC — these are often huge in terms of how much will be bet. Similarly, when two rank teams play each other, there’s more action on those games because they will air on national TV. When these two variables coincide, that is a formula for a lot of betting at legal sports.
  • Conference championship week: At the end of the regular season, most conferences feature championship games between the league’s top two teams. Because there are fewer games this weekend, that will likely translate to a lot of betting on high-profile matchups.
  • Bowl season: Perhaps the best time of year for betting on college football is when the bowls roll around. The games feature matchups of teams that don’t often play each other and are usually on national TV. That translates to people wanting to bet on these games, whether at a sportsbook or in pick’s contests with friends.
  • National championship playoffs: The three biggest games, in terms of betting in the US, will be the three games that pit the best four teams in the country. First, two teams square off in the national semifinals. The winners advance to a winner-take-all game for the national championship. Just like the Super Bowl, the final game of the season for all the marbles is also the biggest in terms of betting handle.

Legal betting on college football vs. offshore sportsbooks

Not every sportsbook that will allow you to place bets on college football is operating legally in the US.

A variety of offshore sportsbooks serve the US market, including most of the states that have legalized sports betting. But those online sportsbooks are located outside of the US and operate in violation of state and federal laws.

How do you tell the difference? Well, the offshore sportsbooks that are commonly found by sports bettors are:

  • Bovada
  • BetOnline
  • MyBookie
  • Bookmaker.eu

None of these sportsbooks serve the US market legally.

The easiest way to tell if a sportsbook is legal and regulated in your state, there will usually be a logo of the state’s gaming board along with a link to its licensing. If a sportsbook says it is licensed by a country and not a state in the US, is not operating where you live legally.

The moral: Choose carefully when deciding where to place your bets on college football.

How to bet on college football

If you want to bet on college football, there are a variety of ways to do so.

If you’re relatively new to betting on sports, in general, you can read more about sports betting terms. But the most common means of betting on football include:

  • Point spread bets: A sportsbook sets a line of how much one team will win by. A bettor will wager whether either team will be able to able to beat the spread, by winning or losing by more than the allotted number of points in the spread. If you bet on Alabama to cover a 3-point spread, for instance, they must win by 4 or points for a winning bet.
  • Moneyline bets: This is a simple wager on who will win a game.
  • Totals bets: A sportsbook sets a line on how many points will be scored in a game. A bettor chooses over or under that total.
  • Futures bets: This is a bet on whether a team will win a conference or the national title, among other things, placed early in the season.
  • Parlay bets: This is where multiple outcomes are wagered in a single bet. If a bettor chooses all the outcomes correctly, it results in a higher payout than betting them individually would. But more outcomes tied to a wager means it is more difficult for a bettor to win.
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