As the most popular sports league in the US, the start of the NFL season is one of the most important times of the year for online sports betting operators. With new state markets open and bettors finally able to wager on their favorite NFL teams, fan engagement and regulated sportsbook activity has never been higher.
Historically, approximately 60% of online sportsbook operators’ annual revenue comes from the NFL season. With more betting occurring than any other time of year, it’s the perfect time for operators to collect data and assess how to optimize player experience.
Over the last week, the GeoComply team reviewed data collected from our systems from September 3, 2023 through September 10, 2023 (NFL week one), to gain insight on betting activity in the USA as the new football season kicked off. The data also allows us to assess the scale of opportunity unregulated states have in regard to sports betting.
In this report, we provide insight into the overall performance of the US market, highlight the action in the three states experiencing their first NFL season kickoff, and look at consumer demand indicators for legalized sports betting in six states where lawmakers will consider legislation in 2024.
The data in this report is based on GeoComply’s aggregated geolocation transactions for its sportsbook customers in regulated US states. Geolocation checks are recorded at various stages of a user engaging with a legal sportsbook including, registering an account, logging in and placing a bet. GeoComply’s data does not purport to be definitive or represent the entire regulated US market but is intended to provide general insights into relevant market dynamics.
Since the Supreme Court invalidated PASPA five years ago, sports wagering in the US has moved from the sidelines to the mainstream. Today, 24 states plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico have launched mobile sports wagering, and five others have passed legislation that is expected to go live in the coming weeks and months. The impressive growth has taken sports betting out of the shadows and turned it into an industry that can help protect consumers and promote accountability and has delivered nearly $4 billion in aggregate tax revenue to regulated states.
The start of the NFL season isn’t just producing exciting moments on the field, it’s proving once again to be a major driver of fan and betting engagement.
GeoComply recorded 242.3 million geolocation transactions across our US regulated online sportsbook customers during this first week, representing a 56% increase from the same time period in 2022. Bettors are ditching unregulated online bookies for legal options across the country. According to new research released by the American Gaming Association as legal betting expands consumers are more aware of the tools available in regulated markets to support responsible gaming engagement. Week one saw 1.1 million new player accounts created across our US sportsbook customers – an increase of 40% from last year.
The first game of the 2023 season set the tone for what we expect to see all season with premiere match-ups. The upstart Detroit Lions went back and forth with the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. When the Lions scored the first touchdown of the game, and of the season, GeoComply saw a massive spike in traffic totalling 4,200 transactions per second immediately following the score! That is our highest rate of volume throughout the first week of NFL games ever.
It’s been well-documented that most consumers turn to their mobile devices when placing a bet. Week one data across our systems reinforced those statistics. 97% of all online sports wagering transactions were made through a mobile device, with 75% of those coming from devices on iOS.
New Market Insights
Three major markets experienced their first start to the NFL season. Even with regulated betting live in Maryland since November of 2022, the excitement of the new season added approximately 61,000 new accounts. Massachusetts’ passion for professional football was on full display adding nearly 60,000 new sports wagering accounts and more than 9 million geolocation transactions.
Ohio launched legal sports betting in January 2023 with record numbers and the Buckeye betting trend continues upward with nearly 20 million week one geolocation checks across GeoComply’s sportsbook customers in Ohio.
Next States to Regulate?
We examined consumer demand in six states where lawmakers are preparing to consider bills to legalize and regulate sports betting next year – Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, and South Carolina. The data below reveals the number of geolocation checks across GeoComply’s systems originating in the following states.
The week one data shows once again that there is strong consumer demand for legal betting in states that are on the cusp of legalization. It’s no surprise that demand is greatest in states like Missouri and Mississippi, where residents are surrounded by states that have legalized online sports betting. While GeoComply’s technology prevented individuals in all of these states from placing wagers, current and historical data shows that thousands travelled across state lines to bet in legal jurisdictions.
When a would-be bettor in one of these states is prevented from accessing a legal sportsbook, they often fall victim to unscrupulous online sportsbooks that aggressively advertise in these markets claiming to be legal and legitimate. GeoComply’s data is a clarion call to lawmakers in these states to take action in 2024. Legalization is the clearest path to put the state in the strongest position to protect consumers, establish accountability and raise revenues.
Illegal Operators Persist
The images below show misleading online advertisements placed in the past week by illegitimate sports betting operators and their affiliates attempting to create an impression that wagers in these jurisdictions are legal. There are websites designed to look legitimate and confuse consumers but are used to promote black market operators. When people use popular internet search engines to find out if betting is legal in their state, often the first thing they see is an ad sponsored by an unregulated operator.