We’re just a few days away from the start of the 2020 MLB regular season, the restart of the NBA, and the beginning of a longer NHL postseason. After months of consuming hors d’oeuvres like Korean baseball and table tennis, sportsbooks will get to serve the main dishes that drive business throughout the year.
Ahead of the major sports restart, global sports data firm Genius Sports Group has released a mountain of sports betting data after combing through $50 million in bets at American books, including those at Caesars’ properties and FanDuel. They identified some interesting patterns among bettors who wager on the major leagues and NASCAR.
The findings give some important fuel to retail books, many of which have lost significant revenue in closures and face uncertainty with coronavirus cases rising again in most states. Genius acknowledges the role that brick-and-mortar locations play and the challenges they face as most states with legal sports betting see the majority of bets made online or through apps.
“Following an unprecedented dormant period, land-based casinos have a significant opportunity to maximize the revenue potential of an action-packed sports calendar that lies ahead,” said Bill Anderson, Senior Vice President of US Operations at Genius Sports. “A large driver of this success will be timely, data-driven outreach and tailoring the sportsbook experience. Knowing how local patrons bet and the sports and selection they like will allow operators to curate the right messages, optimize their offering and ultimately drive loyalty.”
NBA rules in-game sports betting
While football has been king of pre-game spread wagering for decades, sports bettors do most in-game wagering on basketball. Genius Sports’ server found that 25% of handle on the NBA comes in-game. The average bet made in-game is $73, over triple the $21 average ticket sold before games tip off.
Anderson sees the league’s pace and wide-open play in recent years as a major driver for in-game wagering.
“An NBA game travels very quickly whether you’re betting per quarter or per half,” Anderson said. “The excitement level is there with the speed of the game. It’s a more engaging game.”
NHL – the sports betting parlay staple
Hockey will restart on Aug. 1 with a leap into an expanded postseason. Genius Sports Group’s findings show that means there will be a lot of multi-leg action for NHL bettors. Sixty-one percent of the league’s handle comes from parlay wagers with three legs wagered on average.
The NHL is second behind the NBA in in-game betting at 22%. Players wager an average of $43 in-game versus just $10 before game.
Pre-game betting dominates MLB
We get it, sometimes baseball is hard to watch. The pace has slowed over the years, pitching changes prolong contests. And yeah, every now and then there’s a 15-inning NL game that sees position players pitch and ends after a retail location closes.
Baseball has the most betting done pre-game at 92 percent. Anderson believes changes made to the pace of the game and the universal designated hitter for this season will help shift more action to in-game.
“To the general public, we need to look at how to take those disruptions out and increase the flow a bit in a way that keeps the audience engaged,” Anderson said. “Some of these changes (for 2020) take those disruptions out and create a more fluid game.”
Like other leagues, the average in-game bet for baseball ($64) is much larger than a pre-game wager ($22).
NFL remains the ‘handle king’
As it has been for decades, football rules the books. The NFL is responsible for 30 percent of handle at the partner locations, despite having the shortest season of the Big 4 leagues. Average bets are also the largest with $45 per pre-game bet, and $86 per in-game wager. The largest single-game bet taken in the study was a $74,000 wager on a Saints -Titans game.
With books focused on local markets, local teams still get favored by local bettors. Despite a poor 2019 season that included a nine-game losing streak and the end of the Eli Manning era, players in New York State backed the Giants more than any other team. From a national perspective, two teams stood out: the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots.
“There’s just more visibility for those teams across networks because they’re obviously on TV so much,” Anderson said.