As the NFL season kicks off Thursday with a matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys, sports betting operators like DraftKings
could be in line to set several records.
Over $20 billion is expected to be legally wagered in the U.S. on the 2021 NFL and college football seasons, nearly tripling the $7.5 billion wagered in 2020, according to estimates from PlayUSA.
One analyst believes the increase in betting handle is largely due to the recent legalization of sports betting in highly populous states.
“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 U.S. market has grown significantly since the beginning of the 2020 football season,” PlayUSA analyst Dustin Gouker wrote to MarketWatch in an email. “The U.S. 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.”
As of September 2021, 22 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C., offer some form of legalized sports betting.
Sports betting stock like DraftKings
and Penn National
rose in August as football season approaches. The NFL and college football are the two most-bet-on leagues for nearly every U.S. sports betting operator.
The potential increase in total wagering for the 2021 football season may also be attributed to the growth in the states that already have legalized sports betting, something DraftKings’ CEO told MarketWatch in a recent interview.
Another reason for sports betting’s growth in 2021 could be the reemergence of college football. While the NCAA did put on a college football season in 2020, dozens of games were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A full schedule of college football games is expected to be played in 2021.
“Operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel are gearing up for massive football-related media campaigns to drive customers to their sites, harkening back to the days of the advertising onslaught both operators made surrounding daily fantasy sports in 2015,” PlayUSA analyst Eric Ramsey said in a statement.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, it’s been up to individual states to create sports betting legislation, and not the federal government.
The Roundhill Sports Betting & iGaming ETF
a tier-weighted index of global sports-betting & iGaming companies, is up 64.85% over the past 12 months, compared with the S&P 500
which is up 33.68% over that same period.