Las Vegas Sportsbooks Ready for the NFL Season

  • Westgate SuperBook believes attendance will be strong despite the pandemic
  • The Kansas City Chiefs have the best odds to win the Super Bowl at 6-1
  • The most futures bets have been made on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • 33.2 million people are expected to bet on the NFL this year, down from 38 million
NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Las Vegas sportsbooks are fired up for the start of the NFL season, the biggest sports betting season of the year. The season started Thursday, but gets going in full force on Sunday. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Westgate expects robust in-person turnout

The National Football League (NFL) season has begun and with it begins the most important sports betting season on the calendar. Naturally, Las Vegas sportsbooks – and all sportsbooks around the country, for that matter – are excited for Sunday’s first full slate of games.

John Murray, executive director of the famed Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, told the Las Vegas Sun that even with the COVID-19 pandemic and related safety precautions, he expects a strong turnout on Sunday. He said that his facility’s traffic for last weekend’s Kentucky Derby exceeded his expectations.

sports betting has always been one of those things that’s recession-proof”

“Sports betting has always been one of those things that’s recession-proof, if you want to call what we’re in a recession,” Murray said.

Despite his optimism, Murray understands that the sportsbooks won’t be as full on football weekends this year because of the pandemic. Not only do social distancing requirements mean that not as many people can fit into the space, but Las Vegas tourism numbers are also down. The rise of online betting doesn’t help in-person attendance, either.

“….I think people are a little less likely to come down here with everything that’s going on,” he added. “It’s just so easy to bet on a mobile device.”

Chiefs favorites, but Buccaneers most popular

The season opener was already played on Thursday night, as the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs beat the Houston Texans, 34-20. Looking at the futures market before the first game, the Chiefs are the favorites to win Super Bowl LV at 6-1. Depending on the sportsbook, the Baltimore Ravens are either tied at 6-1 or just behind, followed by the San Francisco 49ers at 7.5-1, the New Orleans Saints at 12-1, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 12-1.

Tampa Bay is arguably the most interesting team from a betting standpoint. The team acquired future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady in the offseason and lured unstoppable-when-healthy tight end Rob Gronkowski, a former teammate of Brady’s, out of retirement. The team already had excellent players on offense and a solid defense. Before grabbing Brady, Westgate had Tampa Bay at 40-1 to win the Super Bowl.

Even though the Buccaneers are not the favorites, they have been the most popular team for bettors. William Hill reports that 8% of its futures bets have come in on Tampa Bay, followed by Kansas City and San Francisco at 7%. The Raiders are also a popular pick at 6%, despite being 60-1 to win it all, almost certainly because this is their first year playing in Las Vegas.

Referring to the Buccaneers, William Hill’s Nick Bogdanovich said, “I’m sure we’ll be rooting against them most weeks, that’s for sure.”

Murray added that the New England Patriots have not been as popular in futures betting, likely because of Tom Brady’s departure.

Fewer NFL bettors expected versus 2019

Though sportsbook operators are excited for the NFL season, fewer people are expected to bet on NFL games this season, according to a report published by the American Gaming Association (AGA). The AGA estimates that 33.2 million people will place a bet on an NFL game, compared to 38 million last season.

As one would assume, the numbers at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are expected to decrease, from 6.8 million people betting in person to 6.6 million people. Online, whether legally or illegally, is expected to rise, from 11 million people placing bets at internet sportsbooks to 11.3 million people.

this data highlights the need for educational efforts to drive bettors away from illegal operators”

The AGA also forecasts that more people will place bets with a bookie than last year, from 4.6 million to 6 million. Plus, more than half who place most of their bets illegally don’t even realize the operator is not legal.

“….this data highlights the need for educational efforts to drive bettors away from illegal operators and toward the legal market,” the AGA says, “which protects consumers and the integrity of games.”