Who is the US sports bettor?
That’s a question the industry has been trying to wrap its head around since the US Supreme Court opened the doors for states across the country to legalize sports betting.
The answer to that question ranges from sophisticated bettors accustomed to the value and prolific offerings of offshore books, to casual sports fans who will be placing their first bet and who don’t know a moneyline from a parlay.
The truth is the collective US sports bettor is both of those and everything else in-between.
A magic pill that will appeal to every US sports bettor might not exist, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t trends or betting behaviors in the US market. And at least one US sportsbook supplier is trying to unwrap the riddle that is the US sports bettor.
Using data collected during the 2018-19 NFL season, Kambi created NFL Season Review: Betting Trends and Player Behaviours (read the full report here).
Which sport reigns at betting sites?
According to Kambi’s report, the NFL accounted for 47 percent of its customers’ first bets.
That was far and away the highest percentage of first bets:
- NFL: 47 percent
- MLB: 18 percent
- NCAA: 14 percent
- NBA: 6 percent
- NHL: 2 percent
- Other: 17 percent
Bet slips with more than one selection/sport and/or a multi-sport parlay raise the total to 104 percent.
Not only did nearly 50 percent of customers place their first wager on an NFL game, but Kambi found that nine out of 10 bettors made at least one NFL wager.
Compare that to 49 percent of bettors placing a wager on an NBA game; 48 percent on an MLB game; and 30 percent on an NHL game.
So, even if they came for baseball or hockey, they stayed for the football, and vice versa.
The 800-pound gorilla in the sports betting room
In spite of the strong cross-sell between sports, Kambi’s report indicates 25 percent of all bettors are NFL-exclusive. That could present a problem now that the season is over.
The only good news gleaned from that statistic is that 25 percent of NFL-only bettors aren’t big spenders, as they represent just 4 percent of total handle.
Conversely, 18 percent of bettors bet on all four major sports, and those bettors account for 54 percent of handle. That points to multi-sport bettors having a higher value.
The big question is, can US sportsbooks entice NFL-exclusive customers to wager on other sports? Kambi hopes so.
“Despite the NFL being the main league, by some margin, ensuring bettors have access to markets in the offseason will drive revenue,” the report indicates.
The “markets” Kambi is referring to go well beyond MLB, NBA and NHL games.
Don’t sleep on the other sports
Even though the “Big Five” is the point of entry for 87 percent of bettors, and betting on the NFL, MLB, NCAA, NBA and NHL represents 4/5 of all handle; there is an appetite for other sports and leagues.
The “other” category noted above is a mixture of sports and leagues across the globe, with soccer a plurality of handle.
According to Kambi, 16 percent of all non-big-five bets are placed on three professional soccer leagues:
- English Premier League: 9 percent
- European Champions League: 4 percent
- La Liga: 5 percent
The other big sports in this category are tennis and MMA, with the US Open (tennis) accounting for 6 percent of handle in the “other” category. UFC betting accounted for a further 5 percent of handle.
According to the report, only 4 percent of customers wagered exclusively in the other category. And like NFL-only bettors, they appear to be more casual bettors, accounting for less than 1 percent of total handle.