If you woke up this morning in the United Kingdom as an NFL fan, your favorite (favourite?) betting app was already peppered with interesting—and legal—prop bets for the upcoming 2018 season.
For 20-to-1 odds, you could take Josh Rosen to win the NFL’s rookie of the year and the Cardinals to win the NFC West on Ladbrokes.
For 9-to-1 odds, you could take J.J. Watt to win the NFL’s defensive player of the year award and the Texans to win the AFC South.
And for those who may have had a FourLoko with breakfast, you could have put your money on the 14-to-1 odds that the Browns win the AFC North and Baker Mayfield wins offensive rookie of the year.
Monday morning’s landmark Supreme Court decision to legalize sports betting at racetracks and casinos in New Jersey may take a little while to infiltrate the NFL on a day-to-day basis in the United States. The league will wait on congress to establish a “core regulatory framework” for gambling on sports. Players unions across all sports must come together on countless issues related to safety, integrity and publicity rights, as the NFLPA noted. And, most importantly, every rich person in America with political influence must find a way to make this pad their bank account. That takes time.
But before long, life will be changing for those who once clung to daily fantasy sports to feed their desire for quick, entertaining payouts.
How, exactly? For some idea of what the daily betting life of an NFL fan could become, we contacted several bookmakers and gamblers in London, where an interested party could stroll into one of the city’s 1,000 off-site betting locations to wager on just about anything.
“It’s not something that should have ever really been shunned by the leagues,” Stephen Baumohl, the co-founder of the American sport-focused U.K. sportsbook Redzonesports.bet said. “They’ve obviously shown a willingness lately to embrace it more, and that’s going to continue. They’re going to look to monetize it as much as they can.”
While Baumohl said a majority of his customer base is made up of experienced betters who tend to favor the traditional avenues of gambling—over/unders, point totals and spreads—the push will be on to attract the next generation. That will define the new wave of sports betting in New Jersey and across the country.
According to one former Ladbrokes employee (who wished to remain anonymous), “it's always the £5-20 betters that companies create promotions for.”
“With all sports, the people who are betting their £5-£20 will be looking at the bigger prices to maximize profit and have more fun. They'll see their achievement bigger for hitting a fun 100/1 shot and winning £2000.”
This means creative props and in-game wagers. Will the Browns score more than 20 points in the second half? Will Odell Beckham catch a touchdown in the third quarter?
“A new introduction here which has risen in popularity is ‘make your own bet,’” the former Ladbrokes employee said. “Each company calls it something different like ‘request a bet’ where you can actually contact the bookie via social media and ask them for what you want and they give you a price and a link to place the bet. So I can say anything like Player X to score 2 touchdowns, Player Y 500+ yards, Game to go to overtime.”
Imagine a world where even fantasy football becomes niche—the horse racing of our time. Sports books are smart enough to know that their core audience, entrenched in the analytics of spread distribution, weather impact studies and player trends, is always going to be there. It’s about nabbing the business executive in the company suite looking to make the back end of a 41–7 blowout worth his while. Or, the Instagram-obsessed millennial who lives for tailgate pictures but not much else once the stadium opens.
“Gambling is a very sophisticated market and most of the people who bet on the U.K. are sophisticated and educated. Which so much competition, it’s always the case to push new markets and try new things. With the American sports, that’s something we’ve definitely tried to do,” Baumohl said. “American sports are ignored over here to an extent, so we’ve been able to put up a lot of prop bets, special bets and in-play bets which, over here, are huge.”
The NFL, which has breaks at the end of every quarter, television timeouts, a lengthy halftime and other myriad stoppages that bloat the final watch time, is absolutely perfect for this type of infusion. It’s almost as if the game was made just for this.