Image: Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/USA TODAY Network
The 2021 NFL season kicks off this week, with more reasons than usual for excitement. Since the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA in 2018 for being unconstitutional, individual US states can legalize their own sports betting. Currently, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, and many other states offer legal sports betting, while more states are in the process of legalizing both retail and mobile sportsbooks.
You don’t have to be a resident of the state. As long as you are within legal gambling age and present within a state where betting is legal, you can place your NFL bets in person or on the phone from anywhere in the state. This is why many football fans across the country are planning to back their favorite NFL teams and put a betting stake on football action. It’s safe, fun, and 100% legal.
So this NFL season that will start next week is expected to be the most bet-on NFL season in history, with sports betting being legal in many states. Let the games begin!
Based on research released this week by the American Gaming Association (AGA), over 45 million Americans plan to place wagers on the NFL during the 2021 season. This marks a 36% jump from last season’s figures. Naturally, the increase is driven mainly by the growing legal sportsbook industry that makes legal and safe betting available to many more Americans across the country.
With the 2021 season starting, 23 US states and Washington DC have regulated and legal sports betting. This, compared with the 2020 NFL season, where 18 states were offering legal sportsbooks. More states like Washington, South Dakota, and Arizona are working hard to launch in preparation for the first NFL regular-season game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday. In total, 32 states have passed sports betting legislation and are in different stages of launching legal sportsbooks within their borders.
The states, bettors, and sportsbook operators aren’t the only ones that are proactively shaping this new environment. Understanding the paradigm shift and huge potential, the NFL itself is also embracing legal sports betting with open arms, after traditionally being opposed to gambling and sports wagering for decades.
Realizing that it’s a whole new way to engage with football fans, the NFL is embracing legal sports betting, where the league has partnered with seven leading sportsbooks across the country. It means that we’ll see betting billboards, league official sportsbook partners, and betting commercials on TV during game commercial breaks. Trying to keep things in the right proportion, the NFL will limit sports betting commercials to 6 per game: one during the pregame show, one at halftime, and then four more commercials during the game (one in each quarter).
In an interview with ESPN, Chris Halpin, the NFL’s Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, said about the sportsbook commercials: “After looking at many different approaches, we decided that spreading the betting commercials across the game makes the best sense.” Halpin added: “Our betting and media partners all agreed that this is the best way. We see it as a balanced way for introducing into our nationwide broadcasts advertising of sports betting.”
Still, the league isn’t allowing any of its partners to present or discuss during game broadcasts odds or spreads. The betting advertising will be more targeted and present in shoulder programming, screen scrollers, tickers, and shoulder programming. It will also be included on the NFL Network.
More interesting points from the AGA study are that 37% of the football fans are planning to bet on NFL games this season. Out of these, 47% said they are ‘Avid’ NFL fans. When asked about sportsbooks that operate in football stadiums, 63% of the people asked said that it adds value to their game experience. The league does allow football stadiums in legal states to offer betting lounges and mobile betting inside the stadium. But accepting in-person bets is currently not allowed in most cases.
In a press release about the study’s results, Bill Miller, President of the American Gaming Association, said: ‘Fans are the beating heart of professional sports, so the NFL and other major leagues are starting to grasp the entire potential that sports betting has on driving the engagement of fans.’
Most of the legal betting in the US is done online, with around 19.5 million bettors expected to wager on the NFL online this coming season. This is an increase of 73% from last year. The AGA studied over 2,200 American adults and estimates that 14.6 million adults will participate in paid fantasy sports activities and other pool-betting competitions this year. This figure is up 69% from last year.
The American Gaming Association also said that in the first seven months of 2021, nearly $27 billion had been placed in bets on US sports.
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