The international popularity of the NFL is continuing to grow, and with this growth there has been a stark increase in NFL betting in the UK.
Online sports books in Britain are reporting that they expect more cash to be wagered on NFL matches this season than ever before. The NFL’s international series of regular season games played in the UK has increased year after year, with two games being played at Wembley and two games at Twickenham in 2017 (and, for good measure, one in Mexico City). The top sports books in the UK, such as Ladbrokes and William Hill, say they expect wagering on this series of games to be around ten times more active than games that take place in the USA.
Unlike the US, sports betting in the UK is perfectly legal and – also unlike the US – is not stringently monitored by the government (the United Kingdom Gambling Commission is a non-departmental branch of the government that overseas the legality of gambling services). Despite this, the NFL is not keen for wagering to take place on its games, even in foreign territories. This has not stopped the UK’s wagering public though, as betting on sport in Britain is thought a perfectly normal and above-board activity.
Naturally, UK American football fans have to select their favourite teams based on a different criteria than geography (which might change if the much-mooted NFL London expansion team ever becomes more than a pipe dream). For whatever reason, the New England Patriots (perhaps because they have ‘England’ in their name, or because they’ve been the most successful NFL team over the past decade) seem to be the most supported team in the UK, followed by the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins. Sports books enjoyed a massive extra NFL pay-day in 2012 when the Patriots hammered the St Louis Rams, and again in 2017 when the Miami Dolphins took on (but lost to) the New Orleans Saints.
NFL betting revenue in the UK is unlikely to match the amount of cash bet on EPL games any day soon, though. A televised EPL match between two of the bigger teams in the division will see around £5 million being wagered upon it. Even the most bet-upon NFL games struggle to match one tenth of that.
US sports bettors probably gaze over the ocean with jealous eyes at their UK counterparts. Sporting betting in the US is largely illegal, although it is permitted in some states. US sports bettors can also use sports books that are ‘off shore’ i.e. based in territories away from the US mainland, although the legality of doing so is somewhat cloudy.
American football is never likely to threaten the stranglehold that association football has over UK betting markets, but it’s clear that betting on the NFL is continually increasing in popularity. Has NFL betting reached its zenith in the UK? It’s hard to say, but the UK’s leading sports books perhaps hope there’s definitely a way to go.
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