Why Professional Sports Betting Volume Might Be Unbalanced on Certain Games

The National Football League (NFL), the premier sports league in the US, and its Canadian equivalent, the Canadian Football League (CFL), are enjoying a boom in interest and popularity, both among fans and betting consumers. The two professional football leagues combined had an average attendance of 76,976 fans per game in 2019, up from 68,737 fans per game in 2018, and up from 60,635 fans per game in 2017.

The 2019 NFL regular season saw an increase in revenue of 13.3% from a year earlier, hitting nearly $14 billion in 2019. The league’s marquee event, the Super Bowl, which pits the winner of the NFL championship against the winner of the American Football Association (AFC) championship, also saw an uptick in interest in 2019, with a 6.9% increase in attendance from 2018 to 2019. In 2019, the Super Bowl became the most-viewed sporting event in history, with nearly 600 million total views on YouTube and other social media sites.

The NHL likewise saw a surge in popularity in the US and around the world in the past year, with the sport’s collective audience passing the 300 million mark for the first time in history. The NHL’s marquee event, the Stanley Cup, which features the champion of the National Hockey League (NHL) against the winner of the American Hockey League (AHL) championship, also saw a notable increase in interest in 2019, attracting more than 400,000 attendees to Oakland’s Lake Elmo in the final game of the season.

The 2019 NBA Finals, featuring the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, was the most-viewed sports event of all time, with an estimated 763 million total views on YouTube. The final game of the 2019 NBA Finals was the most-viewed game ever on YouTube, with 15.8 million average views.

It’s not hard to see why so many people are interested in watching the NFL, NBA, and NHL. These sports provide thrills and entertainment to fans, while also allowing people to place wagers on games, with legalized sports wagering becoming a reality in many states and countries.

However, while the NFL, NBA, and NHL are enjoying a popular resurgence, some sports fans may be missing out on the action. The case of the WNBA, which stands for Women’s National Basketball Association, illustrates the point. In 2019, the WNBA had an average attendance of 7,400 fans per game, almost 2,000 fewer attendees than the NBA. The WNBA’s flagship event, the All-Star game, also had an average of 7,400 fans per game in 2019, compared to 12,600 fans per game in 2018 and 11,600 fans per game in 2017. The WNBA has not had a profitable season since its inception in 1996 and has not been able to secure appropriate funding from the US government, the league’s primary financial supporter. This may, in part, explain why the WNBA’s popularity has declined in recent years. Still, the interest in the WNBA remains consistent, with 13% of Americans expressing an interest in the league in 2019, similar to the percentage that expressed interest in the NFL, NHL, and NBA.

These figures suggest that while the number of people interested in NFL, NBA, and NHL games has increased, there may be a sub-section of the population who is not as interested. This raises the question of whether or not the popularity of professional sports is, in fact, balanced across genders, ages, and socioeconomic groups.

Why Has The Interest In The WNBA Declined?

While the NHL, NFL, and NBA have been enjoying a wave of popularity in recent years, the WNBA has seen a dip in popularity. Why is this?

The WNBA was, in fact, one of the first major sporting leagues to allow fans to place wagers on games. In 2018, the United States’ Professional and Amateur Sports Reform Act (PASRA) legalized sports betting, and a total of 32 states have since followed suit. This provides a ready market for sports betting, even if many people still think that sports betting is illegal. The WNBA, which is regulated by the United States’ Justice Department as a not-for-profit entity, saw an influx of interest after the US government legalized sports betting. In 2019, 13% of Americans expressed an interest in the WNBA, compared to 11% in 2018 and 8% in 2017. This suggests that as more and more people are gaining an understanding of the economic benefits of sports betting, the WNBA may be struggling to maintain its popularity.

That being said, 13% still does not seem like a whole lot. The average American now spends more than four hours of their day watching television, and approximately four times that amount is spent on social media. If we factor in how much time people spend playing video, mobile, and board games as well, the total amount of time spent on sports increases to over 12 hours per day. The demand for professional sports is clearly still there.

Has The Interest In The NFL, NBA, And NHL Been Gender-Balanced?

Men are more interested in the NFL, NBA, and NHL than women, with 27% of American adults saying they are interested in the NFL, 23% interested in the NBA, and 18% interested in the NHL. Men also make up the vast majority of attendees at professional sports games, both in the US and internationally. In some countries, such as the UK, men pay more for their tickets than women do. This indicates that while men and women may have equal access to information, men are more interested in sports than women are.

Interestingly, the gender divide seems to be diminishing in the case of the NFL. This may be due to the increased popularity of the league in countries with gender equality legislation. Still, in the US, more men are becoming interested in football than ever before, with over 40 million people claiming allegiance to the Green Bay Packers. This makes the iconic Wisconsin football club the most-represented NFL team, with six players on its roster.

It’s clear that the NFL, NBA, and NHL have been and will continue to be popular sports leagues, with the questions now being: Will this interest continue to grow? How will the popularity of these sports affect the sports betting industry?