NFL, College Football Betting Could Swell to $20B in 2021, According to Forecast

Posted on: August 24, 2021, 02:33h. 

Last updated on: August 24, 2021, 04:08h.

Bettors can’t wait to get their football fix, and one research firm is projecting regulated gaming outlets in the US will draw more than $20 billion in wagers on the NFL and college football this year.

football handle
Staffers at the Tropicana sportsbook in Atlantic City, NJ, seen above.  That and other books could be very busy this football season. (Image: Wayne Parry/Associated Press)

That forecast arrives courtesy of PlayUSA.com, which says a handle of $20 billion could create $1.5 billion in revenue for operators. Should that $20 billion figure be realized, it’d be nearly triple the estimated 2020 football handle of $7.5 billion.

That 2020 number may have been lower because some colleges didn’t play a full slate of games because of the coronavirus pandemic, reducing the number of available games to wager on.

Additions to the roster of live and legal sports betting states over the past year are one reason the 2021 football handle is poised to surge.

The U.S. market has grown significantly since the beginning of the 2020 football season,” said PlayUSA analyst Dustin Goucker.

Currently, 22 states and Washington, DC allow legal sports betting. But to the delight of bettors and operators alike, the figure will soon grow.

Unreasonable $20 Billion Football Handle

While a handle of $20 billion may seem ambitious relative to the 2020 estimate, it’s not outlandish when accounting for several factors.

First, football is the most wagered-on sport in the US, and the NFL is playing a 17-game regular season this year, up from 16 games. Additionally, NCAA teams are expected to play full schedules. Translation: There will be more football for bettors to wager on.

Second, some of the states that joined the live and legal party just this year have strong populations and are homes to college and pro football teams. Michigan and Virginia are two prime examples, as Goucker points out.

Speaking of states new to the fray, Arizona is a lock to start regulated sports wagering on Aug. 9, while Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming could each be up and running at some point before the end of the 2021 football campaign.

Good News for Operators

How $20 billion or larger handle shakes out across operators remains to be seen. But Flutter Entertainment’s (OTC:PDYPY) FanDuel unit, MGM Resorts’ and Entain Plc’s (OTC:GMVHY) BetMGM, and DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG) are the three largest online sportsbook operators in the US.

Of that trio, FanDuel is the leader, with about 45 percent share in the US. However, this is a hyper-competitive industry, with plenty of other well-heeled players, including Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) and Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN).

The arrival of football season is likely to bring more in the way of advertising and marketing expenditures by operators as they vie to attract and retain customers. Wall Street will be keeping close tabs on that spending, because some investors want to see profitability from the likes of DraftKings and others.