The American Gaming Association (AGA) is out with a report about the enthusiasm factor heading into this unprecedented NFL season. Pent-up demand has been a theme in the US legal sports betting industry but this report shows that there may actually be a COVID drop-off in the amount that wager on football this year.
The AGA, in association with a survey conducted by Morning Consult, identified that about 33.2 million Americans plan to bet on the NFL this upcoming season. That represents about 13% of the US population that has said they will bet on football this season. While impressive, the AGA report that the numbers equate of about 5 million less wagering on the sport than last year.
A Deeper Dive Into the Numbers
The fairly all-encompassing AGA study dives pretty deep into NFL fans and bettors on the sport have heading into the 2020-2021 NFL year. It says that 20% of those wagering on the sport (6.6 million) will wager at physical, legal sportsbooks, up from 18% last year.
34% (11.3 million) will place a bet through legal and illegal online platforms, up from 29%, 18% (6 million) will wager with a bookie, either in person or via a mobile platform, up from 12%, 26% (8.6 million) will bet casually through pools, fantasy contests, and squares, down from 31%, and 50% (16.6 million) will bet casually with friends, family, or coworkers, down from 53%.
Reasons for the Decline in Bettors
A drop of 5 million Americans taking part in NFL betting has to be an eye-opener for both the league and gambling providers. After all, Football is sportsbooks’ bread and butter every year. Of course, there is the fact that people have less disposable income due to the coronavirus crisis but some other issues have surfaced through the study conducted by the AGA. One being a sense that the season may not be able to finish its year because of COVID-19.
The AGA has identified a few other reasons its respondents are passing on NFL betting this year. They all have to do with a serious and tangible lack of enthusiasm for the sport headed into the season. 42% surveyed said they were less enthusiastic about the 2020-2021 NFL season because of variables such as increased political activism, no fans in the stands, and the inability to gather with friends to watch games.
The “enthusiasm numbers” could have been skewed by a few numbers that stick out in the AGA report. Just 18% of the general population and only 12% of casual fans are reported to be “excited” about the NFL this year.
Sports fans, particularly NFL betting fans, haven’t given much indication that they are pessimistic about the year. In fact, 54% of avid bettors feel excited about the upcoming season. Just 41% of general NFL fans share that enthusiasm.
18 states plus Washington, D.C. now offer legal, regulated sports betting, with another four not yet operational and seven considering legalization. That number is up from last year’s NFL season – 7 states have launched legal sports betting since the start of the NFL season last fall.
The result is an estimated 29 million more Americans that will have access to a legal betting platform in their state this NFL season – an increase of 54%.
As far as sportsbooks go, they are striking an optimistic tone for the 2020-2021 season. “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.”
What It All Means
Some of the numbers in the AGA report should be considered concerning, particularly the number of bettors that are said to be heading to bookies this fall and the overall enthusiasm gap the sport obviously has.
But this is the NFL – the biggest sports betting league in the world we are talking about. Once the games begin, and everyone is satisfied about the product, Sundays will likely revert back to what we expect from that day – Football ruling the day! Those in the unenthusiastic category won’t be able to resist the passion and the action for too long.