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What Impact Has Legal NFL Sports Betting Had On The League?

James Chittick

It’s one of global sports’ biggest brands, but what impact has legal NFL sports betting had on the league since it was introduced?

The NFL is the most popular sport in the US, and it has now gained worldwide attention rapidly in recent years.

With the international series, Super Bowl mania and an ever-growing global audience, it’s hard to see the sport ever knocked off the top spot in the country.

And this is further exemplified by the popularity of NFL sports betting. In 2018, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was judicially overturned.

This meant states could enact their own gambling laws, including legalizing sports betting. Since then, 38 states have some form of legal sports betting, with 30 allowing online wagering.

And of all sports, the NFL is by far the most popular market. One study found that 81% of bettors over 18 placed bets on the NFL.

For comparison, the NBA ranked second, with just 54% of bettors placing wagers on it. The data, presented by CRG Global for Variety Intelligence Platform, found 80% of mobile sports bettors had bet on the NFL.

The Super Bowl also plays a huge role. The biggest game of the year is always the most bet-on single event in the US, with almost 68 million adults wagering on the 2024 game.

NFL Sports Betting Has A Positive Impact

Overall, there’s been a net positive impact on the league. Studies have shown adults are more likely to watch a sport they can wager on.

And survey responses indicated two-thirds of mobile gamblers were more likely to watch games they’d bet on. This stands to reason that sports betting has increased the viewership of the NFL.

This hypothesis is supported by the data, too. Since sports betting was legalized, NFL viewership has risen year-on-year. In 2022, the league’s average viewership was 17.9 million, up 20% from the 2017 figure before sports betting was legalized.

Much of this is down to the enhanced fan experience. Football is already an exciting game, but adding in real stakes elevates the spectacle for viewers.

Fans are now able to watch their bets win and fall in real-time. Every play means more than ever.

To cope with demand, many stadiums have introduced sports betting kiosks inside the venues, letting fans place bets before and during games.

This particularly suits millennials, who said in a survey that such kiosks would benefit their game day experience. And in August 2022, Caesars Sportsbook at the Capital One Arena found fans bet $5.7m dollars in the stadium alone.

Such huge sums of money mean more of these kiosks are likely to be seen around the league in the near future.

And it’s this financial gain that the NFL will enjoy most. The American Gaming Association (AGA) claims the NFL will see a $2.3 billion revenue increase thanks to legal sports betting across the nation.

Downsides Of Legalization & Integration

Of course, NFL sports betting is not without drawbacks. For many years, the league took a dim view on gambling. This was because of fears for the sport’s integrity, especially that of players.

Although yet to become a serious issue, there have been some problems. Ten active players were suspended for betting on sports in 2023, while seven were suspended indefinitely for wagering on NFL games.

But the league has tried hard to combat this. Increased scrutiny of players and better gambling education are among many steps being taken.

Overall, legalized sports betting must be seen as a success for the NFL. Huge revenue boosts, better viewership figures and improved fan experience can all be directly attributed.

With the league growing further still, it seems the NFL is catching up with Europe, where sports betting – especially on soccer – has been part of the culture for decades.

Although in its infancy, there is every reason to believe NFL sports betting will continue to grow and develop.

James Chittick
James Chittick