Several years ago, Mike Vaccaro for the New York Post wandered into a legal betting parlor in London prior to a Giants appearance in and NFL London game and asked to place a bet. The clerk looked stunned, wandered away from the window and came back a few minutes later, telling him that it was the first request of the day he had on the NFL, but yes, there was a game and yes he could place a bet.
Times have changed.
According to multiple sources and detailed by ESPN’s David Purdum, more money was bet on the New York Jets-Miami Dolphins game at U.K. sportsbook Ladbrokes than any previous NFL game; 10 times more than the average NFL game played in the United States (which can be bet on legally in the UK) and close to what was on Sunday’s Premier League matches. One estimate was as much as £200,000 wagered on the game.
While there is no way to know for sure if the majority of that money was placed by American expats or a growing audience of Brits loving American football, it is worthwhile noting that the record amount of legal wagering comes the same week as the NFL and DraftKings announcing a partnership for the league’s London games for multiple years, at a time when DK has officially secured a betting license in the UK, something rival FanDuel does not have, and only one other U.S. connected daily fantasy player, Mondogoal has (but they are only doing soccer daily pay fantasy right now).
Ironically the next UK NFL game later this month will again be hosted by The Jacksonville Jaguars, who have a massive DFS partnership with FanDuel, setting up yet another conflict in the DFS space between team and a league which does not have an official partner yet. It will also be worth noting the amount of dollars wagered on the coming games as well, as the appetite and interest in legal professional wagering continues to grow at a pace which could someday outflank the now blossoming DFS market here in the United States.
The amount of money wagered in the game on Sunday will also be quietly noted by the American professional leagues, who get no take on that revenue since there are no formal relationships with betting companies in places where gambling is legal. However rumors continue to persist that the NBA, and the NFL, could sign legal deals for overseas games in the coming months, giving the leagues a chance to take in money on legal sports wagering outside the U.S. much like many teams are doing with DFS partnerships now.
A partnership with a legal betting house is the norm for many teams and leagues abroad, and is a growing stream of revenue that is currently being missed out on by U.S. professional sports, since a betting partnership would again cloud the air in support or lack of support for current federal law. The NHL will face a similar situation should it award a franchise to Las Vegas in the coming months, as gambling is legal in Nevada and there are no rules for a team not to have an official betting partner in a state where such activity is legal. Stopping such a deal could be akin to prohibiting the now profitable lottery business for teams, or even for that matter, the exploded amount of money inbound with DFS partnerships. Legal is legal.
Partnership or not, the noise and revenue around an audience more comfortable with legal gambling and a better understanding of American sport continues to grow. If Vaccaro returned to that betting house today, it would be quite a busy place on an NFL Sunday.