December 20, 2017 by

The NFL May Have Buried Itself

The big news out of the Supreme Court and New Jersey has overshadowed another major development in the world of sports betting.  A large sports book, run out of a casino in Las Vegas, has announced that for three consecutive weeks in November, betting on college football surpassed betting on NFL games by up to $400,000 per week.


This news item was buried amid all the talk leading up to the Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision regarding legalized sports betting in New Jersey.  The big news here is that the NFL is losing bettors as well as fans.  It also means that college football is alive and well, for the time being.

It is believed that professional football betting still leads college football in terms of dollars bet nationwide but the sportsbook that reported the massive change in November is one of the most respected books in Nevada.  It’s run by a man with forty years of experience in sports betting, Jimmy Vaccaro.

Sports betting is still very big at online sports books.  These may be independently run, focusing exclusively on sports, or they may be run by an online casino as an adjunct to their general line of casino games.

NFL is in Big Trouble

That the NFL is hemorrhaging fans is no longer a secret.  Stadiums are emptier than ever week by week, viewership is down, and fans are turned off by the violence of the professional game.  A former NFL coach, Jon Gruden, called the violence in this Mon day night’s game “very disgusting, very disturbing”.  He is now a talking head for ESPN which is hemorrhaging viewers of its own so his remarks may have been scripted.  It’s highly unlikely that he would have seen a rough, physical football game as disturbing and disgusting if he were still coaching.

A Development Not Foreseen

The changes in betting on NFL games is significant because, seen strictly in terms of sports betting, it is totally unnecessary and was totally unexpected.  Sports fans bet on games and other outcomes to win money.  A bettor who saw an angle whereby he or she could make some money would normally do so.  That college is taking money away from the pro game means that fans are less looking to the pro game for their betting edge.

Market Behavior

Sports betting is a market and has many similarities with other markets.  Just as financial markets have fundamental analysts and technical analysis, betting on football and other sports is moved by both factors as well.  The fundamentals are which team is better; which match-ups favor which team; which team is playing through more restrictive injuries.  Technical analysis covers emotion.  It covers the weather, a team’s motivation, whether he team is at home or away, how much the team has to lose by losing, which team is riding that elusive momentum, and many other emotional factors.

It may not last long term, but one of the emotional factors at play as November moves into December is that so many erstwhile NFL fans and bettors no longer care.  They still love football, but are turning their attention elsewhere.

College football is more volatile with far more games each week than in the pros.  A dedicated fan and bettor who does his or her homework can often find cracks in the point spread.  The underdog may not win but the favorite may not cover the spread.  In contrast, the pro game has grown stale.

Effect of Mobile

Mobile betting has added an element of convenience to sports betting as it has to so many other areas of life but it is not at all clear that mobile sports betting has had anything to do with the loss of bets on NFL games.  So, mobile may add to the number of bettors; it might add to the dollar amount of bets made; but it might not add to the number of bets made on NFL games.

A Trend in the Making

For sports fans, this is truly a monumental trend.  The NFL faces stiff competition from basketball during the winter sports seasons.  Internationally, while soccer is still not loved by American bettors, they are at least learning more about the game and are places bets.  This development, too, works against the NFL.

The bottom line is that sports betting won a big victory in the Supreme Court and the behavior of sports bettors is changing, perhaps dramatically, perhaps permanently as well.