The cream of the crop
Sports betting is taking over the world of entertainment, and its meteoric rise does not look likely to slow down.
The American market has flourished since a 2018 court decision reversed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which effectively restricted sports betting to Nevada . Thirty-one states have already launched legal sports betting, while others are moving closer to the finish line.
the crown jewel in the USA’s gambling market is unquestionably the NFL
The crown jewel in the USA’s gambling market is unquestionably the NFL, whose championship game, the Super Bowl, generated $7.6bn in bets last season. Moreover, the NFL’s infrastructure is in the perfect place to launch sports betting into the next echelon of worldwide entertainment.
Buckle up, and let’s take a journey…
Parallels with sports betting
Every great construction starts from a single atom. One of the longest philosophical debates pertains to how the universe began when there was once nothing but nothingness.
As the world developed, early explorers risked their lives based on their ability to track Polaris, most commonly referred to as the North Star. Civilizations often sent their brightest men on adventures with nothing but a singular, bright-burning mass sitting 323 light-years away to guide them, but somehow, it worked.
In Greek mythology, Daedalus constructed a labyrinth for King Metos of Crete to house a beastly minotaur. And although seven Athenian men and women were sent in every year to be eaten by the wretched creature and with no hope of escaping, the maze ultimately started as a single line on a grid.
Americans have already bet $125bn on sports since the market launched in 2018
Analogies aside, sports betting is no longer in its prehistoric era. According to The Guardian, Americans have already bet $125bn on sports since the market launched in 2018 — and that does not account for any illegal wagers, which would bump the number even higher. It would be unfair to say, though, that the defining moments in its infancy, much like in the previous examples, did not make the market what it is today.
Earning a seat at the table
You see, for anything in life to work, three areas must be covered.
One, a product or service.
Sports gambling broke into America at a time when sports were already a mainstay on television. The “Miracle on Ice” had already happened, Frazier had already gone down to the canvas, and Michael Phelps had already claimed eight Golds in one Olympics.
Throw in any other memorable athletic achievements, and they contributed to sports betting not skipping, but guaranteeing survival in its early stages. They streamlined growth past what was projected and into a much greater ordeal.
The product was elite, the support was there, and televisions couldn’t get enough of the action— and at the front of the line was the NFL.
Players such as Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders, and Jerry Rice brought brutality, superhuman athleticism, and elegance to screens everywhere for decades, establishing an elite core of supporters. It was always quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre, however, who served as the faces of the league because of their elite play, candor, and place at the head of the offense.
The league recognized that QBs drove the business and they did not want to put them in harm’s way.
The quarterback’s authority has only increased in modern times, as the rules of the game have been sculpted to increase their longevity and effectiveness. The league recognized that QBs drove the business and they did not want to put them in harm’s way. Now, so many passes are being thrown that last year, 25 QBs tossed more passing yards than the league’s leader 50 years ago (Joe Namath).
Also coinciding with the passing game boom is a proliferation of young, talented quarterbacks, and as a result, the NFL has a clear path to sports betting dominance.
Young quarterbacks to drive sports betting
Most experts agree that the league at an all-time high in young arm talent. That includes 25-year-old Lamar Jackson, who won league MVP during his first full year as a starter, 25-year-old Joe Burrow, who led a historically woeful Cincinnati Bengals team to the Super Bowl in his first full year as a starter, and 26-year-old Josh Allen, who is the odds-on favorite to win MVP this season.
Omitted from this list are 26-year-old MVP and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, 24-year-old Pro-Bowler Justin Herbert, and 25-year-old highlight machine Kyler Murray, among others.
QBs were always destined to get the glory. That’s why they won prom king in old movies, or why they always had the best smiles as children— but their importance to the league, especially in such a heavily monetized era, is paramount.
game winners are heavily influenced by who is under center
First and foremost, sports betting starts for most as a simple pick of who is going to win a game: Team A or Team B. Since the quarterback has the most influence on the game, both because of the rules and simply because they touch the ball every snap, game winners are heavily influenced by who is under center.
On top of that, quarterbacks are usually responsible for the highlight plays on the nightly news. Quarterbacks are the ones that charge down the field with less than two minutes remaining to steal a comeback victory. Quarterbacks are the role models for the children watching at home.
Simply put, the position that the league is in with its landscape and availability of young talent makes it the epicenter for American sports betting. Now, it’s time for the league to launch into the next level.
Filling the market
Despite having a prosperous market, sports betting is still illegal in states such as California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, four massively entertainment-driven states that could shoot gambling’s profile through the roof.
It is incumbent upon the NFL to use its new generation of stars to drive lawmakers to a universal decision to legalize sports betting. The league already missed out on a ginormous opportunity last season, when the Los Angeles Rams hosted and won the Super Bowl in a state where sports betting was illegal.
People have a tendency to be drawn to events that affect them personally more than ones that do not. In the case of the Super Bowl, it is not unrealistic to suggest that millions of Californians deprived of betting opportunities would have gotten in on the action if given the chance. And again, that Super Bowl still produced $7.6bn in total betting revenue without them.
The league also has the opportunity to wield its product in a way that it hasn’t before. On any given Sunday, the pure ability of the young quarterbacks could be enough to single-handedly decide an outcome.
Parity is high, excitement is high, and the scores are high.
While Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers had to carry the league for a couple of decades, there are at least ten quarterbacks in their 20s that have what it takes to win the Lombardi Trophy. Parity is high, excitement is high, and the scores are high.
The NFL is already making moves in aligning with gambling companies, too. The league joined forces with FanDuel, DraftKings, and Caesars in 2021, and also has many secondary deals in place. Pre-game talk shows are often sponsored by sportsbooks and read out odds before games.
Stadiums are also becoming gambling centers, as recently seen with the Washington Commanders earning a gambling license and the Arizona Cardinals opening a retail sportsbook at their stadium this week. The league is filling its tool chest, and the question now becomes when it will act.
The time for the NFL to plunge is now. It has its stars, unilateral support, and power like never before.
Keep a close eye on the league’s trajectory over the next few seasons, for it may determine the future of American gambling.