The January “Off Weekend” Will Slow Record-Breaking Pace at US Sportsbooks

January Slow Down Record

  • COVID-19 has allowed many states to create new customers & increase online wagering
  • No “real” football this weekend will have a noticeable effect on all January numbers
  • Fixing the annual NFL Pro Bowl will now be a priority due to necessary wagering support

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There seem to be two recurring themes dominating the US sportsbook headlines the past month.

The first is just that. A dominating individual “month” from several states claiming a new record handle achieved for December or the greatest month ever achieved for that individual state. From veterans like New Jersey or Pennsylvania to newcomers like Tennessee and Iowa, publicity releases are crowing with record monthly achievements.

Right alongside has been other US states reading those headlines, jealous to quickly write their own as soon as possible with new legislation, designed to break new records every month. Several states are in line including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and the biggest prize of potentially Texas joining the list that awaits further progress.

A December to Remember

New Jersey accomplished what would have been thought impossible a few years ago. Taking in almost a billion dollars in handle during December. Indiana and Tennessee also far exceeded expectations during the month, posting their highest figures to date.

The perfect storm was accomplished by all US states for several similar reasons.

Unfortunately, the lingering and paralyzing effect of COVID-19 kept bettors trapped within their homes, elevating their choice to watch television and thereby increased their wagering levels. Beyond sports on TV, seasoned bettors and newcomers were being introduced to the exciting option of sports betting by thousands of commercials from DraftKings, FanDuel, and other sportsbook operators. The most interesting aspect is many of these spots broadcasted “nationally”, in states that do not yet have legalized sports wagering.

Another underrated contributing reason is many states backing off their policy to mandate bettors register in-person to sign up for their accounts. That was an inconvenient process, made more difficult in December weather. Illinois and other chilly states have benefitted from adjusting their policies.

The best news of all might have been the schedule. Four solid Sundays of NFL, many NCAA games plus a full slate of NBA and NHL action. Throw in NCAA college basketball as well and there was something to bet on seven days and nights a week.

Lastly, many new accounts had just begun taking wagering action with encouraged bonus money available and accrued into each state’s wagering December figures. Best of all, within the click of our cell phone, laptop, or home computer.

That Weekend in January

Many new state sportsbook operators will be facing something for the first time this weekend. Sharing the withdrawal feeling rabid football bettors face awaiting the Super Bowl. The long two-week layoff between getting the opportunity to wager on a football game. The big difference for DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, BetMGM, or any other major sportsbook operator in the withdrawal feeling is within their profit potential. And for each state’s tax drawer as well.

There is no doubt the absence of a complete NFL Sunday or any opportunity to wager on any significant football game this entire weekend will make an impact in measuring January vs December results. Do remember Super Bowl LV (55 not Las Vegas) is scheduled to be played on February 7, 2021.

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The Virtual Pro Bowl

Get any two NFL fans together and they will find anything to debate or disagree about. One issue that no two NFL fans have ever disagreed about. They could not care less about the annual NFL Pro Bowl. Worst of all, watch it.

This year’s 2021 Pro Bowl is going to have a slightly different look than every other Pro Bowl in NFL history. Due to COVID-19, there won’t be a game played on the field this year, but there’s still going to be a showdown between the NFC and that AFC happens virtually when the two sides face each other in Madden NFL 21.

Every year, there seems to be a serious discussion about how to “fix” the Pro Bowl to make it a more appealing event. And every year the eventual result reaches the same conclusion; the Pro Bowl simply does not matter that much to fans. They ignore it waiting for next week’s Super Bowl.

The difference now is legalized US wagering is involved. The Pro Bowl has rightfully been ignored by bettors, legally or illegally for several years due to its beyond exhibition status. Hopefully, given another year to figure it out, the NFL will come up with a better wagering-suited solution for next season.

A Slowdown in Headlines

Because there is no “real” football this weekend that should have a pronounced effect upon the January numbers for all US sportsbooks whether onsite or online. This is nothing new. The only new circumstance is many states are experiencing it for the first time as the customers have relied upon illegal sources to wager upon all sports betting action for several years.

Yes, there will be a full schedule of NBA, NHL, and NCAA college basketball games to select from throughout the weekend. But it will not make-up for the missing football habit so many have come to include upon their typical wagering diet.

The good news is March Madness, and the NCAA College Basketball Tournament is only two months away, which can provide all sportsbooks and US sports wagering states an ample opportunity to brag about the huge increases in the handle and record revenue from January and February. And a chance to create, well…new headlines.

 

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.

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