The World Cup is a massive betting event for European sportsbooks, but it’s more of a guessing game for American bookmakers, especially this year.
According to FIFA, $155 billion was wagered globally on the 2018 World Cup, which took place in its traditional summer slot in Russia. The United States men’s national team did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup and betting on the tournament at Nevada sportsbooks was average. The American men are back in the tournament this year, but other factors are tempering bookmakers’ expectations.
“We are optimistic, but have modest expectations,” Karol Corcoran, managing director of online bookmaker FanDuel, said of the World Cup, which kicks off on Nov. 20 in Qatar.
It’s the first World Cup to take place in the fall and in the midst of a busy sports month in the United States that includes the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football and basketball. An eight-hour time difference between Qatar and the eastern United States could also hamper World Cup betting.
“Football betting in general has grown year over year,” said Adam Pullen, assistant trading manager at Caesars Sportsbook. “I would expect the same to happen if it was a normal World Cup this summer. But it clashes with football, the NBA, hockey and college basketball.”
Figuring out how much has been wagered on past World Cups and how much has been wagered on football in general with US sportsbooks is a challenge. The 2018 World Cup began just over a month after the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing all states to allow sports betting. Only three states – Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey – were operational when the 2018 tournament began. More than 30 states could have legal betting markets at the start of this year’s tournament. However, most state regulators do not track football betting individually. Nevada, for example, includes soccer as an “other” category in its monthly earnings reports, along with auto racing, 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 Sportsbook, which is comparable to the amount wagered on hockey during the month, but well behind the NFL, NBA and football and college basketball.
John Murray, executive director of the 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 in the World Cup games that are played at two in the morning,” Murray said. “And what I really don’t know is how much of the action will be new and how much will be money taken out of what we would have done for football or basketball.”
American bookmakers, however, agree that the USA-England match scheduled for November 25, the day after Thanksgiving, should attract significant bets. Murray said it has a chance of being the most-bet football game in SuperBook history, comparable to the amount wagered on a prime-time NFL game.
The United States can be found as long as 120-1 to win the World Cup at FanDuel, and patriotic bets seem to be fully effective. USA attracted twice as many bets to win the tournament as any other FanDuel team.