WASHINGTON, D.C. – A record 45.2 million Americans (18%) plan to wager on the 2021 National Football League (NFL) season, according to research released by the American Gaming Association (AGA). Compared to last year, 36 percent more Americans will place a bet on the league’s games this season.
The sharp rise in betting plans this year can be traced to the expansion of legal sports betting options and increased enthusiasm overall for the upcoming season. Fans in 18 states and Washington, D.C. had access to operational, legal sports betting at the start of the 2020 season. As the 2021 season kicks off, Americans will be able to place legal sports wagers in 26 states and Washington, D.C., with five additional states likely to offer legal sports betting by the end of the season.
“Sports betting is more popular than ever among Americans, and the enthusiasm of bettors for the upcoming NFL season highlights the remarkable growth of the industry over the past three years,” said Bill Miller, AGA President and CEO. “Importantly, when the 2021 NFL season begins, more than 111 million American adults will be able to wager safely with regulated sportsbooks in their home states rather than with the predatory illegal market.”
While NFL betting is projected to be up across all wagering methods, betting with online sportsbooks is expected to see the largest increase over 2020 while illegal bookies are expected to see the slowest growth:
- 21.7 million American adults will bet on the 2021 NFL season casually with friends, up 31 percent from 2020
- 19.5 million will place a bet online (legal and illegal), up 73 percent from 2020
- 14.6 million will participate in a paid fantasy contest or other type of pool competition, up 69 percent from 2021
- 10.5 million will place a bet at a physical casino sportsbook, up 58 percent from 2020
- 6.7 million will place a bet with a bookie, up 13 percent from 2020
AGA research also shows that sports betting is of significant value to the league, with 37 percent of NFL fans planning to wager on this year’s NFL season, including nearly half (47%) of self-described avid NFL fans. Moreover, 44 percent of all Americans and 63 percent of NFL fans believe that in-venue sportsbooks will add entertainment value to attending sporting events in-person.
Along with the expansion of the legal market, increased fan enthusiasm will also drive NFL betting this year, as 25 percent of Americans say they are more excited about the upcoming season than previous seasons, up from 18 percent last year. Fans from the Northeast (21%) are most interested in betting on the NFL this year, followed by the West (18%), Midwest (17%), and South (15%).
“Fans are the heartbeat of professional sports, and leagues like the NFL are realizing the full potential of sports betting to drive fan engagement,” added Miller. “To capitalize on this tremendous opportunity, the NFL and its 32 teams must also realize their responsibility to educate fans and promote responsible gaming.”