The NFL Playoffs are about to kick off and the timing lines up with another interesting happening in the sports/sports betting community. There is an ongoing case in the Supreme Court over the standing federal ban on sports betting in the US. If the ban is repealed, states will have the right to authorize and implement sports gambling options for residents, including both brick-and-mortar and US online gambling venues. As history has shown, the NFL postseason, particularly the Super Bowl, pulls in large number of bets each year. With the demand for betting present, perhaps these Playoffs could help make a case for legalized sports wagering.
There is no denying that the NFL has struggled this year. Viewership is down due to a high number of injuries (to high profile players), opposition to player protests, etc. One thing about this season is that there are a few new teams in the Playoff picture, which is good for mixing things up in a league that some claim is no longer competitive. Sure, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are in the Playoffs, as per usual, but you would never expect the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars or Los Angeles Rams to be in the postseason. With this new wave of teams comes a new wave of fans, and they will want to cement their confidence in their teams by placing wagers on them.
Where can fans bet on their favorite teams? Unless you live in Las Vegas and have access to Sin City’s brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, most fans use licensed offshore sportsbooks that accept USA residents. These online venues have betting lines for each game of the NFL postseason, not to mention individual prop bets to go with every game. These sportsbooks fall outside the reach of the federal ban because they are not mentioned in the law’s language and licensed and regulated outside of US jurisdiction. If the federal law is overturned, there will likely be more US based sports betting locations for people to use.
If one of the underdog teams can make it as far as the divisional championships, the NFL could use that narrative to promote the league, which would build hype and lead to more bets being placed. The AFC is going to be tough, as the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers will probably be meeting again in the AFC Championship. However, there is always room for an upset and some of these teams will be playing with extra passion since it is their first Playoff berth in a while. The LA Rams or Minnesota Vikings could prove a potential underdog winner from the NFC. The Philadelphia Eagles were thought to be in contention, and technically still are, but the loss of QB Carson Wentz leaves them relying on their backup.
The Supreme Court case is not expected to be resolved until sometime later this year (before the summer), the betting numbers from this year’s NFL postseason could be used as evidence of the demand for more domestic sports betting. It is a win-win for all parties, as the league could work out advertisements with sportsbooks and states could make revenue off sports betting taxes. The Playoffs start this weekend, and many fans will be watching to see if this is the year of the underdogs. One thing is for sure, people will be betting.