Lack of enthusiasm from NFL fans? Not according to the sports betting industry By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports September 12, 2020 at 5:00 am Don’t tell Bob Scucci there is a lack of enthusiasm among National Football League fans. Scucci, vice president of race and sports operations for Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, isn’t expecting a drop-off in wagering at the company’s regional sportsbooks near or in NFL cities. For example, Diamond Jo Worth Casino in Northwood, Iowa – roughly 75 miles south of Minneapolis – is a second home for Minnesota Vikings fans. Same with Diamond Jo Dubuque, which is at Iowa’s border with Wisconsin and the state’s legion of Green Bay Packers supporters. Blue Chip Casino in Indiana draws Chicago Bears fans, while Valley Forge Casino near Philadelphia has both a Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants fan base. Las Vegas is another story. In the three years since the league approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, Scucci said Boyd’s Las Vegas sportsbooks have seen an annual steady increase of Raiders’ wagers. Now, with the Raiders officially able to add Las Vegas to its name, Boyd sportsbooks have already written more betting tickets on Raiders games than any other team. “The Raiders are our biggest liability in the futures market,” Scucci said. “It’s similar for those teams associated with our sportsbooks in other states.” The American Gaming Association said Wednesday a survey of fans found less excitement toward the NFL, primarily due to increased political activism around the league. However, COVID-19 pandemic factors – the absence of fans in stadiums and inability to gather with friends to watch games – contributed to the reduced enthusiasm. Sportsbook operators don’t see that trend among their customers. “This year is unique because of the pandemic, but the betting interest with fans is strong and robust, especially in Nevada,” said Art Manteris, Station Casinos vice president of race and sports betting since 2001. ‘Lady Liberty’ in front of New York-New York, is now clad in a Las Vegas Raiders jersey/Photo by Tory Kooyman, MGM Resorts The dean of Nevada’s sports betting industry, Manteris ran the Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate Las Vegas) Super Book for 15 years. He once worried a reversal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to expand sports betting nationwide would hurt Nevada. Not anymore. “We had a thriving sportsbook industry pre-PASPA, during PASPA, and now post-PASPA,” said Manteris. He said Station Casino’s mobile sports betting app helped drive business while operating under COVID-19 health and safety protocols. “We have an industry in Las Vegas that is a unique market and business model.” The numbers support sports betting operators. The AGA said sports betting revenue is up 18.9% in the first seven months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. The total amount wagered has increased 3.2 percent to $5.88 billion over those same seven months, despite the closure of casinos around the country and major sports shutting down for parts of five months. Meanwhile, 18 states and Washington D.C. now have legal sports betting operations, including nine active markets that are home to NFL teams. Another four states – all home to NFL teams – have legalized sports betting and could launch in either in 2020 or 2021. The back side of Lady Liberty’s Raiders jersey at New York-New York/Photo by Tory Kooyman, MGM Resorts “Sports bettors are enthusiastic about this NFL season and will have easier access than ever before,” said sports betting consultant Sara Slane. “Legal betting has never been a more critical driver of fan engagement with the NFL as it will be this season. Further, marketing efforts by teams, media entities, and operators have never been more robust.” For example, MGM Resorts International outfitted its 150-foot-tall “Lady Liberty” statue at New York-New York on the Las Vegas Strip with a 600-pound Las Vegas Raiders jersey for the NFL season. It’s as close as someone will come to seeing a Raiders jersey live, at least this season; due to COVID, the team is not allowing fans inside the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders make their home debut on Sept. 21 with a nationally televised Monday Night Football game against the New Orleans Saints. “Nothing epitomizes the new approach to betting than the Raiders calling Las Vegas home, marking the first time an NFL team will play home games in the sports betting capital of the United States,” Slane said. BetMGM, MGM Resorts’ 50-50 sports betting venture with GVC Holdings, is live in seven states with NFL teams. BetMGM Vice President of Trading Jason Scott said the increase football wagering is due to “general excitement” around the NFL and a customer promotion. “We are well on our way to a record handle, and (the) level of interest is unprecedented,” he said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.