The American Alliance of Football (AAF) was supposed to be a league built on sports betting, and while that hasn’t exactly been the case through the first week, the early returns are encouraging nonetheless.

AAF

TV ratings were surprisingly high for the opening weekend of the AAF. (Image CBS)

Despite the fact that there is no history and no numbers to back up the bets, bookmakers were still busy at the betting window over the league’s first four contests.

“It was more than I expected,” Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, told the Hartford Courant. “Tiny in comparison to the NFL, but not bad considering it’s a brand new league.”

Exact figures haven’t been released, but one bookmaker from the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook compared the action to a typical NBA game.

VP of race and sports at MGM Resorts International, Jay Rood, said that while wagering there was “fairly light,” it was still about triple what they expected to see.

Tip of the Betting Iceberg?

While initial AAF betting handle is a promising sign, it’s not quite what the league had in mind when it launched last year.

League founders were explicit in their desire to leverage the new sports betting landscape in the US, with Charlie Ebersol stating that the goal was to “revolutionize the sports betting experience.”

In fact, co-founder Ebersol went as far as to suggest that salaries would be based in part on the number and size of in-game bets made on a player’s performance through the AAF mobile app.

However, not only was the betting feature not available for opening week, but the app itself was a disaster, leading to a barrage of Twitter gripes.

AAF officials have made no comment about the early betting results, nor when in-game wagering may be available on the app.

No Football Fatigue

So far at least, the TV ratings seem to indicate that America is still hungry for more football, despite the fact that the Super Bowl wrapped up just a week previous.

If the initial betting interest in the league was a mild surprise, the ratings were a complete shock.

Ratings for the first game between the San Diego Fleet and San Antonio Commanders on Saturday night either beat or tied a premier NBA matchup between the Rockets and the Thunder, depending on whose numbers you believe.

It’s unlikely the league can sustain such high ratings; fallen leagues such as the XFL and USFL also started off strong.

But sports betting may be what ultimately separates the AAF from those failures — if the league can get it together in time.

“People want to bet on what they can watch,” said the MGM’s Rood to the Courant. “For a new spring league, it’s got some legs under it.”