Keith O’Loughlin, SVP of Sportsbook and Platforms at SG Digital, talks to SBC Americas about the ways that responsible sports betting is altering perceptions of sports worldwide, particularly within the context of the sporting leviathan that is the NFL.

Sports betting is on the rise, and it’s making a global impact. There’s the obvious growth — US market expansion and new regulations, for starters — but responsible sports betting is affecting how sports themselves are perceived worldwide, and that’s a positive trend. 

To put this trend into context, let’s take a look at the world’s most profitable professional sports league: the National Football League (NFL).

American Football Overseas

We’re seeing massive NFL growth with our sports betting clients globally, particularly in Europe. As the league expands its influence and gains more viewership, the sports betting audience’s interest is piqued. 

In the UK, American football resonates more with the sports betting audience than ever before. It’s becoming a mainstream sport in the nation (one of the world’s largest sports betting markets) due to amped up coverage, live broadcasts, games being played in the UK, and prime time kickoffs on Sundays. 

The NFL is also particularly friendly to in-play betting with so much time between plays, and the UK audience responds to that offer, seizing the opportunity for added live betting opportunities. 

There’s also the “If you build it, they will come” angle, to borrow a baseball adage. As sports betting suppliers offer more American football bets, sportsbook handle will increase. 

In the US, Football is King

Football season is a cultural touchstone in the US unlike any other. The NFL Championship is practically a holiday. Any given Sunday during the NFL season sees a stream of bettors flooding Nevada sportsbooks, and we’re beginning to see that trend spread to states with new sports betting openings. 

American football is ubiquitous in the US. Multiple games are broadcast every week via Sunday, Monday and Thursday night football. Fans participate in ongoing fantasy football leagues, driving interest in games beyond those in which their home teams are playing. It’s accessible, social, and prevalent in the culture. Seeing fans on game day fully decked out in their team’s uniform and cheering every play is something amazing to watch. Fans are invested in their teams.

As sports betting gains popularity in the US, we expect that the NFL will be a key driver of industry growth, simply because it is so popular with fans across the nation. And when mobile betting picks up more traction, that growth will skyrocket. The NFL is built on a constant stream of content, making sports betting the perfect second-screen experience. 

Betting Impact

NFL handle has grown at Nevada books each year over the last decade. It stands to reason we will see the same in the states that come online in the years ahead. And, it is a given that New Jersey will see higher handle this year versus last year as 1) the existing sportsbook operator products mature and 2) we see new operators enter the mix and 3) the offering for NFL wagering grows and includes more markets and propositional – “prop” – bets too.

More specifically, we expect to see significant growth in player-related betting markets and handle based on a number of factors. 

First, the popularity of fantasy football combined with the rise of players as personal brands creates a perfect mix for intriguing player propositional bets. Prop bets offer a unique entry point into the betting world, too—they’re easy to understand for new bettors, and they provide an opportunity for bettors to further connect with their favorite players. 

Second, the NFL is gradually embracing the betting opportunity and seeing it as a complementary experience to watching the game and part of the customer journey, provided it is offered responsibly. We expect the NFL Players’ Association to do the same, as players may eventually benefit from the added exposure. 

Finally, the NFL has made data rights available to betting companies, with next generation player stats included. This allows new companies to enter the space with player-prop-driven betting offers, and new technology that can adapt to the player-focused betting.

Looking Forward

The 100th NFL season just kicked off, and its emblematic of the new sports betting era in which we find ourselves. As responsible sports betting rises, it will change how people interface with the sports that they love and create a richer experience all round; and leaning into the curve is about the closest thing to a sure win there is. 

In partnership with H2 Gambling Capital, SG Digital has encapsulated some interesting facts and statistics relating to the NFL Centenary Season – available to view here.