No doubt, bettors love pro football.
The first week of the National Football League season saw sizable increases in sports betting activity at New York’s four private casinos, according to numbers filed with the New York Gaming Commission.
“The NFL is king when it comes to sports gaming,” said Justin Moore, vice president and general manager of The Rivers Casino.
At Resorts World Catskills in Monticello and Tioga Downs Casino Resort in Nichols, “gross gaming revenue” — the house take after payouts — from the sports betting operation quadrupled over the previous week’s total.
At del Lago Resort Casino in Waterloo and the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady, revenue doubled when wagering began on the NFL’s season openers.
“It was electric,” Lance Young, executive vice president and general manager of del Lago, said of the atmosphere on opening Sunday of the NFL season. “It was absolutely packed, definitely a bigger crowd than the week before.”
In total, the four casinos recorded gambling profit of $900,000 in the NFL’s first week, compared with $345,000 in the previous week.
“I think everyone was anxious for the NFL season to start,” said Jeff Gural, Tioga Downs owner.
Whether the sportsbooks can cannibalize some of the action at the gaming tables and slot machines is uncertain.
Week-over-week total gaming revenue was either lower or flat at three of the four casinos, and higher at only one.
Moore, however, has no concern that NFL betting will draw players from the casino floor, saying the two are complementary.
“If there’s cannibalization, then we’re doing something wrong,” said Moore, a former assistant general manager at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Las Vegas.
Young said bettors are attracted to his casino just off the New York State Thruway to view all the NFL action on multiple large screens in a sportsbook room, while monitoring the status of their wagers. It helps that many of those in the region around the casino are rabid Buffalo Bills fans.
All four casinos opened their sportsbook operations just ahead of the NFL campaign, with Rivers and Tioga Downs barely registering two months of business before the season opened, and del Lago and Resorts World just two weeks.
New York only allows on-site sports betting at its four upstate casinos and at Native American casinos; mobile betting is not allowed. The Oneidas in central New York have sportsbooks at their three casinos.
NFL, Final Four betting favorites
Thirty-eight million American adults — 15% of the U.S. adult population — are planning to bet on NFL games this season, according to a survey by the Washington-based American Gaming Association.
Results in New York follow nationwide trends, with 16% of adults planning on pro football wagering.
Moore expects the sportsbook momentum to only build through the season, with action peaking during the NFL playoffs and culminating on one of the biggest betting days of the year: The Super Bowl — Feb. 2, 2020.
“Everybody knows the NFL only exists because of sports betting,” Gural said.
The Super Bowl and the four days opening March Madness are the top sports betting events in the nation, but pro football regularly attracts the attention of a large share of the sports wagers between September and February.
About $8.5 billion was wagered on March Madness last year, according to gaming industry estimates, with a little more than half of that figure bet on an estimated 149 million bracket entries.
New York gave the go ahead to sports betting since the the U.S. Supreme Court last year lifted a federal sports betting ban.
Regulations ban betting on college sports teams in New York or any college contests played in the state.
The four upstate casinos see sports betting as a boost their operations, which have failed to meet expectations since opening more than two years ago.
More: Sports betting in New York: Here’s when you can start at Tioga Downs and Rivers Casino
More: Sports betting: How New York casinos just got closer to allowing wagers
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