When it comes to American sports, the NFL remains the preferred choice for players in the United Kingdom.
In the mid-2010s, the popularity of the NFL among UK players skyrocketed. Growth has flattened out a bit and interest in betting is still paltry compared to football, but the NFL attracts significantly more players and higher stakes than the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL, according to several UK bookmaker operators.
More money was wagered at British bookmaker William Hill for the 2021 NFL season than for any other season, up 5% from 2017, according to US sports head Chris Randall. British betting exchange Smarkets said NFL betting volume in the first three weeks of this season already accounted for 48% of total betting in the 2021 season, while bookmaker Sky Bet reported a 77% increase in NFL betting volume since 2017. Sky Sports, the Sky Bet-affiliated media outlet, broadcasts over 100 NFL games, including Sunday’s Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints game in London.
The Vikings (-3, 45.3) will take on underdog Saints on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur, the first of three UK games this season. The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers will play on October 9, while the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars will play on October 30.
“NFL games in London really attract more [betting] interest,” Randall wrote in an email to Sportzshala, “but I would say a decent part of it is the fact that they usually take place earlier in the day as a standalone event. They definitely take more than they deserve, judging by the quality of the matches!”
An NFL game typically attracts about nine times more money than an NBA game and 70 times more than an MLB or NHL game at Sky Bet. The NFL, which starts most of its games in the afternoon, is more suitable for the UK time zone than the night starts of the NBA and NHL, according to bookies. By comparison, in Australia, the NBA is the most betting sport, attracting nearly three times as many bets as the NFL and MLB combined, according to bookmaker PointsBet.
While the NFL outperforms other American leagues in UK bookmakers, it continues to be overshadowed by interest in betting on the English Premier League. Randall calculated that a high-profile EPL game would raise 10 times more money than an NFL main game this Sunday. He added that interest in NFL betting in William Hill’s books in the UK is just below “big horse racing, top football (soccer) leagues, top tennis tournaments, big boxing matches and the top leagues of cricket and rugby in the UK”.
Last season at Sky Bet, the Premier League’s premier game of the season raised twice as much money as the Super Bowl.