If you watched the first weekend of the XFL, chances are you were taken aback by the league’s complete embrace of sports betting. On the television, viewers were able to see point spreads and over/under totals next to the score of the game.
Considering the NFL’s longtime resistance to wagering, the XFL’s progressive style of giving bettors the information they need alongside the viewing experience was something refreshing and unique for fans of football and wagering.
Although the first-weekend viewership numbers were on par for what you would commonly see for a weeknight NBA game (roughly 3.3 million viewers), the league posted twenty times the handle for bookmakers compared to the first weekend of the now-defunct AAF.
Even with the pomp and circumstance of the XFL mostly gaining that much attention from bettors, it is hard to deny that the incredibly large handle was encouraging news for bookmakers who know that football drives revenue.
For FanDuel and DraftKings, the momentum from Saturday’s doubleheader spilled into Sunday as the handle and number of bets increased from day one to day two. “We saw momentum build on the XFL as the weekend progressed,” said FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessy. “Handle on XFL games increased 55% from Saturday to Sunday and bet count increased 31% from Saturday to Sunday.”
The game with the largest handle over the weekend was the New York Guardians versus the Tampa Bay Vipers. With FanDuel’s presence as one of the bigger operators in the neighboring state of New Jersey, the betting totals were not completely unexpected for the home town Guardians.
One of the big factors why the XFL should stay solvent throughout the first season is that the company has two television deals with ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports.
The most interesting of the two is the Fox Sports deal because the media company has its own sports betting app, known as FoxBet. The Fox mobile app works much like the DraftKings app because both companies are authorized partners and can stream live feeds from the XFL directly to their platforms.
DraftKings did not allow live bets on XFL games, something that could change after gauging the early excitement for the league from bettors. FoxBet did take live bets on the moneyline only, but not the total score of games.
“The XFL was as big as some other popular leagues on our sportsbook,” said DraftKings spokesman Stephen Miraglia. “Nearly 25% of bettors, who placed a bet with us this weekend, placed a bet on the XFL.”
Other bookmaking companies reported strong handle numbers with PointsBet spokesman Patrick Eichner telling the Action Network that the action generated by the league equaled a strong UFC offering.
But even with the strong first weekend numbers, XFL officials understand that early viewing numbers and attendance figures could be inflated due to the excitement surrounding the opening weekend.
The possibility of wandering eyes from the television and losing people coming to the games is one of the big reasons why the XFL has opened its doors to the engagement that sports betting can bring to a league.
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