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Study: NFL 2021 season set to draw US$12bn in bets

US punters to also wager US$8bn across college football.

27 August 2021 Ed Dixon
  • Bets placed could produce US$1.5bn in revenue for sportsbooks, according to PlayUSA
  • Projections would nearly triple the US$7.5bn bet on football in the US during 2020 campaign
  • Colorado leading all markets with 26 sportsbook brands active

Punters could place more than US$20 billion in bets on the National Football League (NFL) and college football during the 2021 season, according to a study by US online gaming outlet PlayUSA.

The projections from PlayUSA, which tracked the regulated sports betting market in the country, are largely based on the slew of new markets opening up this year, which could help triple the estimated US$7.5 billion bet on football during the 2020 campaign.

According to PlayUSA’s research, the wagers placed in 2021, excluding parlay bets, could produce as much as US$1.5 billion in revenue for sportsbooks across the country.

Of the US$20 billion, it anticipates that at least US$12 billion is set to be bet on the NFL this season. This could produce at least US$800 million in revenue.

College football, meanwhile, is on course to attract US$8 billion in wagering, netting sportsbooks more than US$550 million.

PlayUSA also noted the rapid uptake from consumers in states once sports betting had been legalised. Since the end of 2020, Michigan and Virginia have launched full-scale sports betting and are now the fifth and seventh largest markets in the US, respectively.

The biggest variable, according to PlayUSA, could be which states launch during the football season. Arizona, Connecticut and Florida, among others, could launch or expand sports betting in some form by the end of the 2021 season.

PlayUSA says that Colorado leads all markets with 26 sportsbook brands active in the state.

A busier schedule for college football this year, after a Covid-disrupted 2020 campaign, will also see operators invest millions in promotions, the study adds.

The emergence of new operators in the space, such as SI Sportsbook and the branded app from digital media company Barstool Sports, will further contribute to the spike in wagers being placed.

“Propelled by the launch earlier this year of legal sports betting in relatively large states like Michigan and Virginia, in addition to states such as Arizona that are expected to launch near the beginning of the NFL season, the US market has grown significantly since the beginning of the 2020 football season,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network.

“The US sports betting market looks entirely different than it did just one year ago. There is no question that it will be a historic football season unlike any we've seen before.”

A report by Ibis World in 2018 roughly estimated that fully legal sports betting in the US would be worth an annual US$55 billion. In the same year, the American Gaming Association pegged the illegal gambling market at US$150 billion.

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