A record 45.2m Americans (18 per cent) plan to wager on the 2021 National Football League (NFL) season, according to research released by the American Gaming Association (AGA). Compared to last year, 36 per cent more Americans will place a bet on the league’s games this season.
The sharp rise in betting plans this year can be traced to the expansion of legal sports betting options and increased enthusiasm overall for the upcoming season. Fans in 18 states and Washington, DC had access to operational, legal sports betting at the start of the 2020 season. As the 2021 season kicks off, Americans will be able to place legal sports wagers in 26 states and Washington, DC, with five additional states likely to offer legal sports betting by the end of the season.*
“Sports betting is more popular than ever among Americans, and the enthusiasm of bettors for the upcoming NFL season highlights the remarkable growth of the industry over the past three years,” said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “Importantly, when the 2021 NFL season begins, more than 111 million* American adults will be able to wager safely with regulated sportsbooks in their home states rather than with the predatory illegal market.”
While NFL betting is projected to be up across all wagering methods, betting with online sportsbooks is expected to see the largest increase over 2020 while illegal bookies are expected to see the slowest growth. 21.7m American adults will bet on the 2021 NFL season casually with friends, up 31 per cent from 2020, 19.5m will place a bet online (legal and illegal), up 73 percent from 2020 whilst 14.6m will participate in a paid fantasy contest or other type of pool competition, up 69 percent from 2021. A further 10.5 million will place a bet at a physical casino sportsbook, up 58 per cent from 2020 and 6.7m will place a bet with a bookie, up 13 per cent from 2020.
AGA research also shows sports betting’s significant value to the league, with 37 per cent of NFL fans planning to wager on this year’s NFL season, including nearly half (47%) of self-described avid NFL fans. Moreover, 44 per cent of all Americans and 63 per cent of NFL fans believe that in-venue sportsbooks will add entertainment value to attending sporting events in-person.
Along with the expansion of the legal market, increased fan enthusiasm will also drive NFL betting this year, as 25 percent of Americans say they are more excited about the upcoming season than previous seasons, up from 18 percent last year. Fans from the Northeast (21 per cent) are most interested in betting on the NFL this year, followed by the West (18 per cent), Midwest (17 per cent), and South (15 per cent).
“Fans are the heartbeat of professional sports, and leagues like the NFL are realizing the full potential of sports betting to drive fan engagement,” added Mr. Miller. “To capitalise on this tremendous opportunity, the NFL and its 32 teams must also realise their responsibility to educate fans and promote responsible gaming.”
Among expected bettors, the Chiefs are the most popular pick to win the Super Bowl (15 per cent), followed by the Buccaneers (11%), and Cowboys (7%).