The World Cup is a big betting event for European bookmakers, but it’s more of a guessing game for American bookmakers, especially this year.
According to FIFA, US$155 billion was wagered globally on the 2018 World Cup, which took place during its traditional daylight saving time in Russia. The United States men’s team did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and tournament stakes at Nevada bookmakers were average. The US men are back in the tournament this year, but other factors are dampening bookmakers’ expectations.
“We are optimistic, but we have modest expectations,” Karol Corcoran, general manager of online bookmaker FanDuel, said of the World Cup, which kicks off Nov. 20 in Qatar.
It’s the first World Cup to take place in the fall and right in the middle of a packed US sports month that features the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football and basketball. An eight-hour time difference from Qatar to the eastern US could also hamper World Cup betting.
“Football betting in general has increased year after year,” said Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading at Caesars Sportsbook. “I would expect the same thing to happen if this were a normal World Cup in the summer. But it goes against football, NBA, hockey and college basketball.”
Determining how much has been wagered on previous World Cups and how much is wagered on football in general with US bookmakers is a challenge. The 2018 World Cup kicked off just over a month after the US Supreme Court released a ruling that allowed all states to authorize sports betting. Only three states – Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey – were up and running when the 2018 tournament began. More than 30 states will be able to have legal betting markets when this year’s tournament starts.
However, most state regulators do not track football betting individually. Nevada, for example, includes football in the “other” category in its monthly revenue reports, with motorsports, golf, hockey and combat sports, among others. The Colorado Gaming Division, however, tracks the amount wagered on football. Last November, $11.2 million was wagered on football with Colorado bookmakers, comparable to the amount wagered on hockey during the month but well behind NFL, NBA and college football and basketball.
John Murray, executive director of SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, said the company’s accounting team was disappointed with its November estimates of how much would be wagered during the World Cup.
“I just told them I don’t know what kind of action we’re going to have at the World Cup games that are going to be played at two in the morning,” Murray said. “And what I really don’t know is how much of the action is going to be new and how much money it’s taken away from what we would have done in football or basketball.”
US bookmakers are in agreement, however, that the US-England game, scheduled for November 25, the day after Thanksgiving, should attract significant betting. Murray said it has a chance of being the most-betted football game in SuperBook history, comparable to how much is wagered on a prime-time NFL game.
The United States can be found up to 120-1 to win the World Cup on FanDuel, and the patriotic betting seems to be in full force. The USA attracted twice as many bets to win the tournament as any other team in FanDuel.