As legal sports betting rolls out across the US, the biggest slice of the market is betting on the NFL.
Pro football is the most-watched sport in America, and that translates to it being the most bet-on sport as well.
Read on for more information about betting on the NFL in 2020 and the market for it in the US.
Where you can legally bet on the NFL in the US
There are more than a dozen states where you can legally bet on NFL football games currently. Here is the list of states where sports betting is legal, or where it has been legalized pending launch (click through to learn more about betting options in any of these states:
|State||Is sports betting legal?||Is online sports betting legal?|
|Delaware||Yes||Yes, launch undetermined|
|Mississippi||Yes||Yes, on-property only|
|New Mexico||Yes, at multiple tribal casinos||No|
|North Carolina||Yes, pending launch||No|
|Tennessee||Yes, pending launch||Yes, pending launch|
|Washington DC||Yes, pending launch||Yes, pending launch|
Online betting is currently live in these states, which should be the largest markets for sports wagering in short order:
NFL betting in New Jersey
The second biggest market for betting on the NFL is New Jersey, and it will likely surpass Nevada in the near future — possibly in 2020 or 2021.
That’s for several reasons:
- It’s a more open market for online betting — you can register online from anywhere in the state
- New Jersey is also interesting in that it has access to the New York City market; NY only has a few physical sportsbooks upstate. But New Yorkers can cross the river into New Jersey and bet easily.
- Betting on the Giants, Jets and Eagles is popular among New Jersey residents.
There are no shortage of apps in the state:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- Caesars Sportsbook
- William Hill NJ Sportsbook
- Fox Bet NJ Sportsbook
- SugarHouse Sportsbook
- betMGM Sportsbook
- Golden Nugget
- Hard Rock
NFL betting in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is the biggest state that has legal sports betting apps. Population centers and football-crazy cities Philadelphia and Pittsburgh create a good starting based for legal sports gambling.
There are only a handful of apps in the state as of September 2019, but more are on the way.
NFL betting in West Virginia
There are also a trio of physical sportsbooks. While betting on West Virginia University is huge, expect a lot of betting on the NFL teams in surrounding states as well.
NFL betting in Nevada
Sports betting has been around for decades in Nevada, and it’s the biggest market for NFL betting right now. Hundreds of millions are wagered on NFL games in Las Vegas and beyond.
While there are more than 100 physical sportsbooks, nearly all of them also have a sports betting app. While the tech in Nevada lags behind other markets, and you have to sign up in person for an app, they are still a good option.
Mobile betting accounts for more than half of all betting — NFL and otherwise — in Nevada.
NFL betting in Iowa
Iowa went live with sports betting in the summer of 2019, rolling out physical sportsbooks and online sports betting apps almost in parallel.
There are already more than a dozen sportsbooks in the state, along with apps that you have to register for at a casino and racetrack.
Legal NFL betting apps vs. illegal offshore apps
If you’re not in one of the states mentioned above, you are not betting at a site that operates legally in the US or in your state.
While many people believe that sports betting became widely legal in 2018, all that happened was the repeal of a federal ban allowing states to legalize sports betting.
So if you want to bet on the NFL, keep in mind where you’re betting. While individual bettors are unlikely to get in trouble for betting at a site that operates outside of the constraints of US law, the sites themselves do run afoul of federal and state law. Despite the fact that these sportsbooks will tell you they are operating legally, that is far from the truth.
If you’re in Nevada, New Jersey and other states that have betting laws, you have a number of regulated choices to choose from. Unfortunately for much of the country, there is no legal option. That includes large states like California and Florida. In New York, you can bet at some upstate sportsbooks but only in-person.
How much do Americans bet on the NFL?
Despite the fact that the NFL has the fewest games of any pro team sport, it’s by far the most popular to bet on.
With a handful of preseason games, 16 in the regular season and then a win-to-advance playoff system, there’s a premium on every game. That dynamic makes the NFL the most popular sport to watch on TV; the Super Bowl every year is the most-watched program on TV in the US.
All of that interest creates a robust market for betting on the NFL in the US, despite the fact that single-game wagering has only been legal in Nevada before 2018. People still find myriad ways of having a monetary interest on the outcome of games, from fantasy sports, to betting against friends, to using illegal offshore sportsbooks.
If you include fantasy and social betting, the number is certainly in the hundreds of millions. If limited to offshore books, the number has been estimated from the tens of billions to $150 billion.
The advent of legal sports betting outside of Nevada will increase all of these figures even more. The NFL, as the country’s most popular sport, will drive betting handle in most states.
When is NFL betting the biggest?
The interest in betting on the NFL usually follows a rhythm, starting out strong before hitting a crescendo in the postseason:
- The first few weeks of the NFL season are usually the biggest in the regular season, outside of weeks that feature several top teams facing off and/or divisional rivalries. Everyone is excited to bet on the NFL when it returns, and that honeymoon usually lasts several weeks.
- Thanksgiving is now a big time to bet on games. With the unidivided attention of NFL fans — at least before dinner is served — there are three games that take place on the holiday every year.
- The end of the season is often a bit slower for betting on the NFL, from attrition of bettors to lack of interest as some teams fall out of the playoff hunt. But that resets as the playoffs begin, with huge numbers of bettors wanting to have action on wild-card games, divisional games and conference championships.
- The Super Bowl is usually the single biggest day for betting at any sportsbook. Tens of millions of people will watch, and many of them have action on the game some way, whether through a sportsbook, a squares competition or a wager with a friend. But as sports betting rolls out in more and more states, expect there to be a lot of betting on the NFL.
Sports betting apps vs. physical sportsbooks for NFL
NFL fans love to watch games at sportsbooks. Nevada has long cashed in on the intersection of betting and lots of TVs, packing sportsbooks in Las Vegas and elsewhere with fans on NFL Sundays.
It is usually a good experience, except it can be difficult to get your bet down in-person on a busy Sunday. The lines to place bets in states with legal sports betting are usually extremely long; in states where online betting is legal, it’s far more convenient.
Here’s a bit of a breakdown:
Sports betting app advantages
- Multiple ways to deposit and withdraw funds
- Easier to place bets
- Live betting options — betting while games are going on — is far more robust.
- Convenient to bet from nearly anywhere (as long as you are located in a state where it is legal).
- Deposit bonuses and odds boosts
Physical sportsbook advantages
- Personal contact with a ticket writer
- Can watch nearly every game at a sportsbook
- Free drink tickets are sometimes given at sportsbooks
More about NFL betting odds and lines
If you are betting on the NFL, there are a variety of ways to do so. Here is a quick look at some of the ways:
- Point spread: This is the most common way to bet on NFL games, and is generally the type of bet that sportsbooks see the most of. Here, the sportsbook sets a line that team X will win a game by Y points; for instance, New England could be a three-point favorite at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. If you bet New England at minus-3, you are betting that New England will win by four or more points. If you bet on the Eagles, you are betting that Philly will either win, tie or lose by two or one points.
- Moneyline: This simplest type of bet, a bettor is just picking who will win the game. The confusing part for bettors not used to looking at moneyline odds. Here, a favorite will usually be assigned a negative number, and the underdog a positive number. New England could be a -148 favorite, meaning you need to bet $148 to win $100. Philly could be a +128 underdog, meaning you bet $100 to win $128. Favorites, therefore, return less money than underdogs.
- Totals: Betting on how many points will be scored in an NFL game is another very common bet. Here, the sportsbook sets a line, and you bet whether the two teams will combine to score more or fewer points than that total.
- Futures: There are a variety of ways to bet on future events for the NFL. The most common is to bet on the winner of the Super Bowl. You can also bet on conference champions, division champions, and regular-season win totals among other things.
- Prop betting: Here, a bettor is betting on whether something will or won’t happen in a game. Will Tom Brady pass for 300 yards or more? Will Antonio Brown score two touchdowns? You’re betting on whether the number set by the book.
- Parlays: A bet where you connect more than one outcome into a single bet. For instance, you could combine three point spreads into a single bet that would result in longer odds and an increased payout if the bettor picks all three correctly. These are generally profitable bets for sportsbooks because of the degree of difficulty for the bettor.
- Live betting: Betting on a game while it is in progress is an increasingly popular way to wager. Most of the methods of wagering above are available while games are going on, including spreads based on the current score and time, what players will do during the game, etc.
Note that all of these types of winning bets will include vigorish or a commission that the sportsbook charges on winning bets. More on sports betting terms can be found here. And that’s not an exhaustive list of bet types either.