It’s no secret that the sports gambling industry is in the midst of what some might call a Golden Age. Since around 2015, as daily fantasy sites took off and legal restrictions were slowly peeled back, gambling has become more accepted among the public than at any time in the past.
Some individuals remember a time when betting on sports had to be done through a bookie or a shady offshore website. Now, betting on sports can be done legally through any number of apps you can download on your phone in seconds.
In addition to the accessibility of sportsbooks, the sports gambling subculture has even made its way to primetime television programs on the biggest networks in sports. Bottom line tickers even provide information on betting odds. In short, sports gambling has revolutionized the way future generations will consume sports.
Regardless of your opinion of gambling, it’s likely that it’s here to stay. In this article, I’ll lay out seven facts you may or may not have known about the sport betting industry.
1 – Football Is King
This may come as no surprise, but football, specifically the NFL, is the most frequently bet sporting event in terms of both money and overall participants. But how big exactly is the football betting footprint in American sports gambling?
Behind football is basketball, which sees about 30% of the total action (the football vs. basketball comparison might be closer than you expected). Behind that is baseball, which receives 25% of all sports bets.
2 – Sportsbooks Thrive in September
I’ve already confirmed what you probably believed to be true in the first place; football betting gets a lot of action. Another reality, one much more unfortunate, is that it’s also the biggest money-maker for the sportsbooks – especially in September. How good exactly is September for the books? Let’s just say they make more than in October and November combined.
When you think about why the books are disproportionately successful in September, it’s not difficult to come up with a few reasons. First, the late summer months are slow betting months. Some gamblers love the odds baseball presents, but the general betting public isn’t as keen on the sport.
The second reason is that people are simply excited about watching and betting football. Almost every American sports fan, bettor or not, looks forward to start of the football season like a child looks forward to Christmas morning. For the sportsbooks, it’s better than any holiday.
The last reason sportsbooks are so successful in September is that people go full-tilt betting on football but simply don’t have much reliable data to use when making their picks. Early in the season, both the NFL and college football are at their peak of unpredictability, and sportsbooks use the bettors’ bias from the previous season against them.
3 – It’s a Huge Industry, and Continually Growing
As legalization spreads and public opinion has begun to shift, the money wagered reflects the enthusiasm.
According to the sports business journal, $4.9 billion dollars were wagered on sports in 2017…and that’s just in Nevada! The number is significant, but it’s even more impressive when you consider that’s a 440 percent increase from the total amount of money bet on sports in 1984. Amazingly, this still only accounts for 2.15% of the state’s casino winnings.
Experts are predicting a growth of roughly $10 billion per year, which means it’s expected to reach nearly $60 billion in 2020. And those are the conservative numbers.
While there isn’t any reliable data to prove it, there’s no question that tens of billions more dollars are bet each year in illegal gambling that isn’t being tracked by a specific entity.
4 – Everyone (okay, almost everyone)
Obviously, determining what percentage of the population bets on sports doesn’t have an exact answer. People gamble in various ways, and it isn’t always trackable. However, most estimates will suggest that nearly 80% of the population has, in one way or another, bet on sports.
While this 80% number seems high, keep in mind that fantasy games are included in the metric and this can account for a significant percentage of the people who you wouldn’t consider typical sports bettors. But, if money is risked in the hope of winning more money, that constitutes gambling.
5 – Legality Is Growing Constantly
It wasn’t in the too-distant past that sports gambling was illegal across the board in states other than Nevada. What once seemed like a longshot proposition is now becoming a reality in dozens of states across the U.S.
As of fall 2019, ten states (Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New York, Iowa, and Indiana) have fully-legalized sports betting.
Nearly every other state is in the process of reviewing legislation, but it’s reasonable to expect several more states to fall in line with the legalization movement over the next couple of years.
All of the transition begs the question, “What does this mean for bettors?”
The answer depends on if you were already gambling underground beforehand. If you were already placing bets through an offshore site or a private bookie, you can benefit from the higher standards that come from legalized gambling. Although private bookies certainly have an interest in maintain a reputation as a fair place to bet, the lack of regulatory powers meant that anything could happen.
Legalization obviously opens new revenue streams for casinos and gambling companies, and the state will certainly be taking their cut as well.
Only time will tell how thing will play out as all sides undergo the growing pains that inevitably come with legalizing something that has soon long been carried out undercover.
6 – Live Betting Is Bigger Than You Think
If you didn’t get your picks in before the start of the game, you’re not alone! Statistics show that nearly 25% of the money bet on sporting events is wagered in-game. Live betting, meaning bets placed while the competition is in progress, is becoming more popular as online sportsbooks make betting in real-time easy and convenient.
Some individuals use live betting as a way to recoup losses from bad bets placed before the game, but others use it as a way to make more educated plays based on the information they’ve learned from what they’ve already seen in the game.
Next time you’re feeling unable to make a decision before the game begins, consider giving live betting a shot…everyone’s doing it!
7 – Looking to the Future
On the opposite end of the spectrum from live betting is futures betting.
For example, betting on who will win the Super Bowl during the middle (or beginning) of the season, choosing the eventual MVP of a league, or which team will win the pennant are all examples of common futures bets.
These types of bets can be extremely appealing to gamblers because they are enticing for those bettors looking to place high-value bets. In many cases with futures bets, even the team or player with the best odds will still be in the plus-money, meaning you can win more than you risk if your bet hits.
One casino in New Jersey reported 5% of all betting money was on a futures play. While that doesn’t seem like much, that still translates to millions of dollars for the book (and a few dollars for the winners).
It will be fascinating to see how legalization impacts a practice that has been going on since the dawn of competition. Without question, the evolving landscape will provide opportunities for bettors and sportsbooks alike that could only have been dreamt about years ago.