Super Bowl bets will shatter records: 1 in 4 Americans to gamble on big game

A record 67.8 million American adults are expected to bet $23.1 billion on Super Bowl LVIII, according to a new American Gaming Association survey. The estimated number of bettors has increased 35% from the previous Super Bowl, while the total amount being bet is estimated to have shot up from $16 billion in 2023.

Both figures would represent records – fitting for a Super Bowl held in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the U.S.

For the NFL, partnering with sportsbooks has been a boon for business. The relationship appears to be a natural one: Though sports betting was illegal in most of the country until 2018, it’s always been a part of sports fandom.

But as a sports media scholar, I find the league’s embrace of gambling so striking because for most of its history, the NFL had pushed the government for stricter regulations, not more lenient ones.

Particularly in its early days, the NFL wanted to avoid the stain of bookies, bets, fixed games and the gambling crises that had befallen other professional sports leagues.

Staunch opposition

In 1963, just as the NFL was starting to become profitable thanks to broadcasting deals, a gambling scandal threatened the league’s growing popularity.

Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended two of the league’s stars, the Green Bay Packers’ Paul Hornung and Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions, for a full season after both players admitted to placing bets on NFL games.

“This sport has grown so quickly and gained so much of the approval of the American public,” Rozelle told Sports Illustrated at the time, “that the only way it can be hurt is through gambling.”

But football and gambling eventually resumed their delicate dance. In 1976, CBS hired bookmaker and newspaper columnist James “Jimmy the Greek” Snyder to join the cast of its flagship pregame program, “The NFL Today.” CBS Sports president Bob Wussler knew that millions of viewers wanted to know the betting lines for upcoming games. It was Snyder’s job to communicate them.

The NFL’s leadership, however, remained adamantly opposed to its broadcasting partners explicitly encouraging gambling. So Snyder communicated the lines by predicting the final score, thereby allowing careful listeners to learn a point spread. The routine lasted until 1988, when Snyder suggested that slavery had made Black players better athletes. He was fired the next day.

In 1992, the NFL and other major sports leagues lobbied for the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which would severely restrict sports gambling, allowing it only in Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. Rozelle’s successor, Paul Tagliabue, testified in favor of the bill, telling Congress: “We do not want our games to be used as bait to sell gambling. We have to make it clear to the athletes, the fans and the public, gambling is not a part of sport, period.” The measure passed.

In 2017, current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated the league’s stance. Speaking in the wake of the owners’ decision to allow the Oakland Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas, he insisted: “We still strongly oppose … legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that.”

DraftKings sports betting app
Gambling apps like DraftKings have brought sportsbooks into the household for Americans. (Photo by Poetra.RH on Shutterstock)

More money, more problems?

Everything changed a year later, when the Supreme Court declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional, which left the decision to allow sports gambling to the states. Since then, more than 30 states have legalized sports gambling.

Despite its historical opposition to sports gambling, the NFL moved quickly to take advantage of the new legal landscape.

In 2021, the league announced seven companies, including BetMGM, Draft Kings and Caesars, as the league’s official gambling partners. Two years later, ESPN, one of the league’s major partners – and one in which the league may soon buy a stake – announced the formation of ESPN BET, a sportsbook partnership with Penn Entertainment. ESPN immediately began promoting its new venture on its television and web platforms.

By embracing sports gambling, the NFL has unleashed new profit streams. Even casual fans can’t miss the surge in gambling advertisements that now air during the games, all of which buttress the value of media rights. Meanwhile, the NFL’s official sportsbook partners will fork over more than $1 billion to the league over the course of the five-year contract.

But this infusion of extra cash comes with a substantial social cost. Gambling addictions are at an all-time high, likely spurred by the ease with which people can place bets from their phones. Young men seem to be especially vulnerable.

Super Bowl LVIII, the 58th Super Bowl, Kansas City Chiefs vs. The San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Super Bowl LVIII, the 58th Super Bowl, Kansas City Chiefs vs. The San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. (Photo by kovop on Shutterstock)

Ten NFL players have been suspended for gambling on sports since 2022. Several former athletes have come forward to share stories of their struggles with sports betting.

Nonetheless, the league continues to promote gambling sites to its fan base. The gambling prohibitions for players have not substantially changed, but the environment in which they work and live has made the temptation far more difficult to avoid.

Goodell has cast the league’s partnerships with sportsbooks as a no-brainer for the bottom line: “We have to be in that space,” he plainly stated in a September 2023 interview.

Meanwhile, the potential costs – for the league and for its fans – are a bit harder to see, at least right away. But to anti-gambling advocates, they’re no less pernicious.The Conversation

Article written by Thomas Oates, Associate Professor of Sport Media, University of Iowa

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Comments

  1. YES ONCE AGAIN THIS TIME OF YEAR WE GATHER AROUND OUR TV SETS (TOSSED MINE IN THE DUMPSTER HAVE NO USE FOR WOKE-TV) TO WATCH THE “STUPID-BOWL” THE WEEKEND AMERICANA FESTIVE EXTRAVIGANSA, TO WATCH THE NFL GOD-ATHLETES PRANCE AROUND IN THEIR “WAR DANCE ROUTINE” THESE FANTASTIC BEHEMOTHS OF GARGANTUAN SIZATION WHO ARE SO RARELY SEEN OUTSIDE OF THE NFL GAME EXPERIENCE, MARVEL US ALL WITH THEIR ATHLETICISM ONLY THEY ARE ABLE TO EXECUTE IN SUCH CHOREOGRAPHED PRECISION, THE ESSENCE OF IT ALL THAT HAS KEPT IT GOING (SINCE 1920) IS THAT BILLIONS UPON BILLIONS OF DOLLAR TREASURE IS IN VIEW, IN OUR GENERATION IT IS NOT “LOVE MAKES THE WORLD GO ‘ROUND” IT IS “MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO ‘ROUND”, SO SINCE THIS IS A HUMONGOUS MONEY PIE THAT IS IN VIEW SO MANY FEEDING IT AND SO MANY DESIRING A “CUT OF THE ACTION” AND OF COURSE THE “ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM” THE FANS AND VIEWERS WHO BUY THE TICKET FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF WORSHIPPING THEIR NFL TEAM ARMY, AND THE VIEWERS AT HOME, A MASS COLLECTIVE THAT THE MERCHANTS SELLING THEIR WARES SEEK TO “NET” ENOUGH (CON) OF THE NFL SUPERBOWL DEMOGRAPHIC TO SEDUCE TO BUY THEIR GOODS, OF COURSE I HAVE GIVEN UP THIS SILLYASS SPORTS GAME-FOOLERY, I SEEK TO ADVANCE MYSELF, NOT WORSHIP SOME SILLY NFL ATHLETE-GOD, THE BANALITY OF IT ALL IS RIDICULOUSLY COMICAL, I COME FIRST.

  2. Reminds of our. Federal justice system! Players can’t bet, but ownerrss can bet! On the federal side one side can store decades of files across America with immunity, while another goes to trial for a few boxes from his 4 years! Is there anyone still left who sees the injustice? Whats worse the decades guy brain has left the planet, when you start talking to dead people, you get the gurnies out with straps!

    1. Unfortunately ,few only hear you. I think everyone is betting on chiefs to win . I’m going to bet on 49ers to win. 😆😉

  3. The world needs plans to unite right now. The Torii/Omega Plans are those plans. Ten free Americas with small governments the Founders would call for. A Global Republic.

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