The Impact of Legal Sports Betting on the NFL

The Impact of Legal Sports Betting on the NFL


The NFL plays host to the most popular sport in the nation, and we have now seen the NFL gain international attention. Over the last decade, the game has grown exponentially worldwide, especially with the international series now taking place in multiple nations. In the United States, the Super Bowl is consistently the most-watched telecast yearly, its viewership reaching hundreds of millions. Football is the biggest sport in America, and it’s unlikely ever to be knocked off that pedestal.

This can be proven even further when you look at the popularity of sports betting, specifically on football. In 2018, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was judicially overturned, allowing states to enact their own sports betting and gambling laws. Before this, sports betting was effectively outlawed nationwide. Since the ruling, 38 states have offered some form of legal sports betting, with 30 allowing citizens to place a sports bet online.

Of all sports and leagues, the NFL is the most popular to wager on in quite some way. A study found that 81% of bettors aged 18+ placed bets on the NFL, with the NBA at the second most popular with 54%. The data, fielded by CRG Global for Variety Intelligence Platform, found that four out of five mobile sports bettors had placed a bet on the NFL.

The popularity of the NFL among sports bettors is further accentuated by the number of wagers on the Super Bowl. The biggest game of the year is the most wagered-on single event in the USA, and in 2024, nearly 68 million adults placed a bet on it.

Its impact on the league itself must be seen as a net positive. To begin with, studies show that adults are more likely to watch a sporting event that they have or can wager on. Survey responses indicated that two-thirds of mobile gamblers were likelier to watch a game they’d wagered on. This means that the NFL stands to gain higher viewership per game, especially with more and more states moving to legalize gambling.

We are already seeing this happen too. NFL viewership has increased year-on-year since the legalization of sports betting. In 2022, regular season games in the NFL saw an average viewership of 17.9 million. This is a 20% increase from 2017 when legalized sports gambling was first rolled out.

This is mainly down to how much the overall fan experience is enhanced. Football is exciting enough as it is, but it adds real stakes for the viewer, and it increases tenfold. Fans can watch in real-time as they edge closer to wins. Every yard, tackle, fumble, and point means much more. To meet the demand, many stadiums have now incorporated sportsbook kiosks connected to the venue where fans can place bets before and during games. This is excellent news for millennial fans after a survey in 2020 found that this addition would enhance their gameday experience. In August 2022, Caesars Sportsbook at the Capital One Arena revealed that bettors wagered an overall $5.7 million in the stadium. Vital feedback from fans and the overall net profit means that we will likely see these kiosks in other stadiums around the league.

However, it is the financial gain that the NFL will most look forward to. According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), the NFL’s revenue will see an extra $2.3 billion in income due to the advent of widespread, legal sports gambling. This is just the infancy of legal sports betting, too, meaning this figure is likely to grow even more in the coming years.

There are, of course, some drawbacks, however. For decades, the NFL’s attitude toward gambling was poor, mainly due to fears it would call into question sporting integrity, particularly of players. While it has not necessarily become a significant issue in the years since its legalization, we have seen a few instances where those fears were justified. In 2023, 10 active players were suspended for gambling on sports, and seven were suspended indefinitely due to wagering on NFL games.

However, the NFL has made moves to combat this, increasing their vigilance and educating players and personnel on the league’s gambling policy.

The legalization of sports betting has to be considered an overall success for the NFL. Soaring revenue, increased viewership, and an improved fan experience have allowed the league to grow even further. They have seemingly caught up with many European countries where people are betting on sports games. Specifically, soccer has been well known. As mentioned previously, we are still in the relevant infancy of its legalization, and there is every reason to believe those figures on revenue and viewership will grow even further.


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