NFL Betting Could Reach $24 Billion During The 2023-24 Season
TheLines projects that NFL sports betting handle could reach almost $24 billion during the 2023-24 season. Over $17 billion will come from straight NFL bets. Another $4.1 billion-6.8 billion could come from parlay bets that include NFL wagers.
Of that $17.1 billion of straight NFL bets, almost $900 million of those wagers will occur during the week of the Super Bowl – a major event that brings out more bettors than the regular season. These casual bettors’ wagers during major championship events contribute to almost $900 million during the week of the Super Bowl alone.
These projections account for the Ohio sports betting industry’s first NFL season and Massachusetts’ online sports betting launch. Ohio launched on Jan. 1, 2023 and bettors wagered $1.1 billion in the first month alone. Massachusetts online sports betting launched in May 2023, and bettors wagered $455 million that May. When both industries see their first full NFL seasons in the 2023-24 season, they’ll play important roles in increasing the total US national sports betting handle.
Kentucky must also launch its sports betting industry by Dec. 28. However, Gov. Andy Beshear said he hopes to launch Kentucky sports betting before the NFL season begins. Regulators have tended to use deadlines enshrined in sports betting bills as launch days. While a launch as early as September is feasible, our projections do not assume a season’s worth of bets out of Kentucky.
Since North Carolina regulators are predicted to launch online sportsbooks in early 2024, our projections also do not assume a full season of NFL bets out of North Carolina.
NFL Sports Betting Trends
Sports bettors’ wagers go through seasonal patterns. Most of their betting occurs from August to March when there are full months of NFL, NBA, and MLB games. February slows down after the Super Bowl in the first half of the month. March Madness then takes over and drives handle for the final month of the peak sports betting season.
NFL handle is highest from September to January when there are games to bet on throughout the month. Professional football handle falls in February. Playoffs conclude, and the Super Bowl is the only major event left.
In TheLines.com’s week-by-week breakdown, we anticipate Super Bowl week will see the highest handle. Weekly handle increases throughout the NFL season, because the bettors who only bet on championship events begin to put their money on divisional playoffs and conference championships. In the weeks leading up to those events, wagers on which teams will either play in those games or win them outright likely increase, too.
There is one part of revenue projections that remains opaque in public records: parlay handle.
Why Parlay Handle Is A Black Box
Parlay bets are increasingly popular among sports bettors. ESPN reported that 31% of pre-kickoff wagers powered by sportsbook platform provider, Kambi, were same game parlays during the 2022 Super Bowl. Parlays include multiple bets bundled into one riskier wager. The potential payout is much higher, but the chances of winning each part of the bet plummet.
In states like Colorado and Illinois which report parlay handle, parlay wagers are reported separately from wagers on other sports. Some parlay bets are same game parlays, whose legs include wagers on different aspects of the same game. However, other parlays are built from wagers on different games, such as a spread in basketball and a moneyline in football.
Bettors don’t place separate amounts of money on different legs of a parlay. So, it’s difficult to calculate how much total parlay handle comes from a specific sport.
Same-game parlays can be projected within a range. In its 2021/22 NFL season report, Kambi found that 36% of all its bets were parlays. Thirty-six percent of $17.1 billion is about $6.8 billion of parlay bets, but Kambi’s report is unclear about whether those were the total bets throughout the NFL season, during Monday Night Football, or the Super Bowl. It also overcounts parlays that didn’t include NFL legs.
In the 2022 Super Bowl, 22% of PointsBet’s Super Bowl wagers were same game parlays. Twenty-two percent of $17.1 billion is about $4.1 billion. However, that figure excludes parlays with legs that either included legs from different NFL games or from other sports. This figure undercounts parlay handle.
The likely answer lies in between these two scenarios, and illustrates why parlay handle is an under-evaluated number in public sports betting revenue reports.
NFL Sports Betting Projection Methodology
Our NFL projections are based on records from the American Gaming Association (AGA) and state reports from Colorado and New York.
According to annual AGA reports, US sports betting handle continues to rise:
- $7.9 billion in 2018
- $13 billion in 2019
- $21.5 billion in 2020
- $57.2 billion in 2021
- $93.2 billion in 2022
The annual rate of growth fell from 166% to 63%. Those extreme growth rates are from the mass legalization of sports betting and the major markets that opened during those legalization waves.
Because Kentucky and North Carolina are the only two new online markets expected to launch before the 2024 Super Bowl – and North Carolina may not launch even that early – we used a conservative 15.1% growth rate to account for the slowing growth of sports betting handle.
That 15.1% came from the AGA’s Q1 report which found that sports betting handle increased by 15.1% over Q1 2022. That yielded a projection of $107.3 billion in national handle for the 2023 calendar year.
Breaking Total Handle Down To NFL Handle
After compiling its April 2023 figures, Colorado released a sports betting report of sports betting activity over the three years Colorado has had legal sports betting. Colorado is also one of a handful of states that breaks down handle by sport.
In its three-year report, Colorado found that professional football made up 15.9% of total handle throughout the year. We took 15.9% of our projected US handle of $107.3 billion and came to our projected $17.1 billion in NFL handle for the year.
Spreading NFL Handle Across The NFL Season
The weekly projections took two phases of work.
First, we used three years of Colorado data to find the average NFL handle as a percentage of total handle during each month of the year. After eliminating outliers from 2020 when the NFL season was delayed, we arrived at the average NFL handle percentages we would apply to our weekly model:
|Average NFL Peak Season % of Handle||28.9%|
We used New York’s weekly sports betting handle figures to calculate weekly NFL handle. New York is the largest sports betting market in the United States and publishes its sports betting reports with weekly and monthly numbers. That makes its weekly fluctuations credible for projections like these.
We applied our monthly percentage of handle estimates to the weeks ending in the corresponding month. For example, we used September’s 31.6% on the week ending in September 11 to estimate that week’s NFL handle.
For February, we used the average NFL peak season percentage, because it was unreasonable to assume the Super Bowl was going to comprise less than 8% of the week’s handle.
Once we had those estimates, we found the percentages of the total estimated 2023 NFL betting handle for each week of New York’s NFL season: Week 1 comprised 4.4% of the season’s handle, Week 2 consisted of 4% and so on.
After that, we spread our estimated $17.1 billion proportionately across each week to arrive at our final weekly NFL projections.
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