First NFL Weekend Portends Big Numbers For New York Sportsbook Operators

Geolocation checks confirm how New York is leading the U.S. sports betting industry
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The first weekend of NFL action highlighted where New York stands in the legal U.S. sports betting industry nine months after it joined the movement.

“New York continues its reign as ‘King of the Hill’,” was how Anna Sainsbury of the geolocation-tracking firm GeoComply put it in a press release after the firm crunched the weekend numbers.

The fact that Empire State residents could bet legally on an NFL opener for the first time is quite possibly the No. 1 reason sports betting was up appreciably across the country last weekend. Nationwide, GeoComply tracked 103.1 million location checks from Thursday to Sunday night, an increase of 71% from the 60.1 million it tracked during the NFL’s opening weekend of 2021.

New York, where mobile betting launched on Jan. 8, isn’t the only state to have gone live in between the two seasons’ NFL openers. Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Connecticut also launched operations in that timespan. But New York, with its 19.5 million residents and hearty appetite for sports action, has been the biggest mover by far.

New York in the lead

New York accounted for 15.7% of all location checks, followed in order by Pennsylvania (15.3%), New Jersey (13.5%), Michigan (9.7%) and Illinois (8%), according to the press release. GeoComply works with nearly every sportsbook operator in the country, ensuring it has a clear picture of when and where Americans are placing legal sports bets.

The New York State Gaming Commission doesn’t track bets by sport, but the arrival of the NFL season clearly will be a boon to the industry in New York, which saw a bit of a summer lull. July and August were the only sub-$1 billion months in terms of total state handle, but analyst Chris Altruda wrote for NY Online Gambling that September and October figure to bring handles of at least $1.1 billion each.

The robust action from the return of the NFL comes as some industry insiders have predicted depressed handles in New York due to the state’s 51% tax rate for operators, tied with New Hampshire for highest in the nation. The sign-up promotions being offered in New York weren’t quite as generous as those in neighboring states.

“As a result of the onerous 51% tax, we have deliberately reduced our marketing spend, and BetMGM customers in New York will receive considerably less in incentives in terms of free bets than our customers in other states,” Jason Scott, Bet MGM’s vice president of trading, told Vegas Insider last week. “This will result in reduced handle in New York.”

New York City is the epicenter

While overall betting handles might not prove quite as gaudy as they could have been with more enticing promotions, there’s no denying New York’s place as the sports betting capital of the country, at least until California and/or Florida launch, whenever that may be.

While some might wonder if New York’s appetite for betting on the NFL is tied to the rise of the Buffalo Bills, who are Super Bowl favorites and a major liability to most sportsbooks, it doesn’t seem to be centered in the Buffalo region. For last Thursday’s NFL kickoff game — a 31-10 Bills victory over the reigning champion Los Angeles Rams — the New York City area seemed to carry the bulk of the load. GeoComply recorded 3.7 million location checks across New York Thursday, and fewer than 268,000 of those came from the Buffalo region.

Photo: Jamie Germano/USA TODAY

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