By Weston Blasi
The NFL season kicked off Thursday night after the Buffalo Bills beat the Los Angeles Rams 31 to 10, and sports betting operators like DraftKings /zigman2/quotes/213120645/composite DKNG -2.11% , FanDuel, and Caesars /zigman2/quotes/205281174/composite CZR +0.92% could be on the cusp of setting betting records this year.
A record 46.6 million American adults say they will bet on the 2022 NFL season, up 3% from last year, according to new American Gaming Association (AGA) research . One major reason for that is the increase in states that offer legal sports betting.
See also: Inflation can’t keep U.S. Open fans from Serena Williams and $22 cocktails
“The sustained interest in NFL wagering reflects the growth and continued maturation of legal sports betting across the country,” said AGA president and CEO Bill Miller. “Consumers clearly want legal sports betting options and understand the regulated industry’s foundational commitments to responsibility.”
As of September 2022, 31 U.S. states , plus Washington, D.C., offer some form of legalized sports betting, compared to this time last year when just 22 states, plus Washington, D.C., offered legal wagering.
The NFL and college football are the two most-bet-on leagues for nearly every U.S. sports betting operator. Last season, over $20 billion was projected to be legally wagered on football, and this season, PlayUSA , a website that covers sports betting, is projecting $31 billion in total handle this football season.
“The appetite for gambling on football is a direct reflection of the overall popularity of the sport here in the US. College and professional football together account for around 30% of the total annual betting volume nationwide, and that percentage leans significantly higher in some individual markets,” PlayUSA Market Analyst Eric Ramsey told MarketWatch. “The busy fall sports season represents the most critical window for operators to acquire new customers and reactivate those whose accounts have fallen dormant during the summer slowdown.”
New York state is projected to have more money wagered on football than any other state, according to PlayUSA, followed by New Jersey and Illinois.
The projected overall increase in total amount legally wagered on football by Americans this year comes as a proposed ballot measure in California could pave the way for America’s most populous state to begin accepting sports bets. Proposition 26 and Proposition 27 will allow Californians to chose if and how they want legal wagering in the Golden State this November.
If one of those bills passes, Thursday’s opening night NFL game between the Rams and the Bills in Los Angeles could be the last opening week NFL game to be played in California where sports betting is not yet operational.
Interestingly, the 2023 Super Bowl in Arizona will be the first Super Bowl in history that will be played in a state that offers legal wagering for the biggest game in sports.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, it’s been up to individual states to create sports betting legislation, and not the federal government.
See also: ‘Buy your mom an iPhone’: Tim Cook says Apple doesn’t prioritize texting experience between iPhones and Android
NFL bettors have a clear favorite team this season: the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are the most-wagered-on NFL team to win this year’s Super Bowl in terms of total bets and total money on DraftKings, prior to Thursday’s game.
The past 12 months haven’t been good for many sports betting stocks . Over that time, shares of DraftKings are down 72.25%, shares of Penn Entertainment /zigman2/quotes/209264611/composite PENN -2.00% are down 59.47%, shares of MGM /zigman2/quotes/209932643/composite MGM -2.52% are down 17.81% and shares of Caesars are down 54.56%.
See also: Serena Williams exits U.S. Open in third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic — but here’s why she’s not done winning
The Roundhill Sports Betting & iGaming ETF /zigman2/quotes/218797171/composite BETZ -0.13% , a tier-weighted index of global sports-betting & iGaming companies, is down 50.81% over the past 12 months, compared with the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.19% , which is down 9.21% over that same period.