Kambi Reports Plenty Of Hometown Bias In NFL Bets, But Not Universally
That was one of the takeaways from a review of the NFL season presented online Friday by representatives of Kambi, a global behind-the-scenes sports betting service that handles odds for multiple U.S. sportsbooks including DraftKings, BetRivers, and Barstool.
Its analysts noted the effect that popular national teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, star players like Tom Brady, and hometown biases can have in affecting which NFL games attract the most betting action in each state.
Nationally, the Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, and Seattle Seahawks drew the most betting handle across the 14 states with legalized sports betting in which Kambi provides a platform to its partners.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes leads a dynamic offense that draws attention to the Chiefs. The Eagles are based in a location where Kambi has multiple partners serving a huge population base around eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Bucs jumped from 25th to third in betting handle for Kambi between 2019 and 2020 by virtue of signing Brady, whom so many fans either love or hate.
The top three teams bet on at Kambi-backed sites in Pennsylvania in 2020 were the Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Chiefs. In New Jersey, it was the Chiefs, New York Giants, and Eagles. The Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans were tops in their states.
But there were certain cases were the hometown biases were a lesser factor. In Indiana, the Indianapolis Colts — despite a solid season — trailed in betting behind the Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, and Bucs.
And in Michigan, the perennially struggling Lions weren’t near the top, as the Patriots, Buccaneers, and Carolina Panthers saw the most action, the Kambi representatives said.
“It seems that the Michigan bettors really do value their hard-earned cash and avoiding the Lions all season,” observed Joshua Benjamin, a Kambi senior partner manager.
Live betting gradually attracting more action
NFL betting is far more popular in the U.S. than wagering on any other sport, and Kambi saw a huge increase in volume in 2019 from 2020. That’s a reflection of both newly legalized states where legal betting became possible and an increase in the number of operators with betting sites, particularly the online/mobile variety.
The Kambi reps said that through its multiple partnerships, the company was involved in more than 30% of the overall sports betting handle outside of Nevada in 2020. Its volume of pre-game NFL wagers increased 270% from the year before and its live wagers placed during contests spiked 390%.
The live, in-play betting has been far more popular in Europe than in the U.S., but American bettors are gradually taking to it more and more. One particular type that grew in 2020 was “instant betting” during games, which means on an outcome that’s determined within the contest rather than awaiting the game’s result.
Customers of Kambi’s partners were happy to take advantage of offers such as the odds relating to what the outcome of the next drive would be; whether a run or pass would be the next play; and what team would score next and in what manner.
“Despite these being relatively new markets, they already make up 20% of all NFL wagers,” said David Ball, a Kambi senior trader. He noted such bets doubled during the playoffs, and “37 percent of bettors have placed one of these, and 80 percent do so from mobile.”
Customers typically do more such betting during prime time, or “stand-alone” games, when TV viewers only have one contest to follow at a given time. Those games without competition for attention on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights and a few other occasions draw about three times the amount of handle per contest across Kambi sites as do those on Sunday afternoons.
Super Bowl set a betting record, no duh
Unsurprisingly, Kambi found the Feb. 7 Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Buccaneers to be the largest event by handle in the company’s history, generating some 25,000 bets per minute at peak.
Bettors were reacting to a combination of about 1,500 different pre-match and live bet offers, with price changes constantly taking place as momentum changed during the game. Betting on game MVP choices frequently fluctuated and spiked during the contest, particularly with ultimately unsuccessful wagers placed on Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski after his second TD reception.
Even as the Bucs romped to a 31-9 victory, a high volume of wagers continued coming in on live point spread options, right up until near the end of the game.
“This demonstrates the power of sports betting even in a one-sided Super Bowl where the outcome was known,” Ball said. “It shows the ability of sports betting to keep people glued to their TV set.”
The company representatives did not offer any insights into the temporary outages in betting opportunities that Kambi created for its sportsbook partners for a short time on the afternoon of the Super Bowl. Company officials have said there was high volume on one particular type of non-traditional bet that triggered platform problems that had to be rectified.
For bettors, there’s no offseason
Kambi provides the betting options that show up on the sites of DraftKings, BetRivers, Barstool, Unibet, and others, and it is working now on the 2021 season. Futures options on next year’s Super Bowl winner have been up since but February, but it is also looking to replicate successes last year with offers such as those relating to the NFL draft and movement by players among teams.
Last year, the representatives said, there was heavy betting on where Brady would end up, and this year, there is substantial action on the future team of coveted QB Deshaun Watson.
And there will be ample opportunities in many states — not all allow betting on it — leading up to the April 29 NFL draft. While it seems a foregone conclusion that Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be taken first by the Jacksonville Jaguars, there will be plenty else to consider and bet.
“Many believe the draft starts at two this year,” Ball said, noting Lawrence is too obvious as No. 1. Bets may be popular, however, on markets such as the total number of quarterbacks drafted in the first round, the first wide receiver to be chosen, or an over/under on when Alabama QB Mac Jones will be selected.
Kambi is waiting, meanwhile, for the NFL to release its 2021 schedule, especially to see if it will feature a 17th game for teams, as has been discussed. “That would be fantastic turnover for us, bringing in another 16 games,” Ball enthused.
After the schedule is released, Kambi will start creating futures bets for each team on season-long win totals, and it expects to post some initial point spreads for regular season games months in advance.
“It brings us back to the idea of this product having all-year-long entertainment,” Ball said. “There truly is no offseason in the NFL.”
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