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#pounditWednesday, January 20, 2021

Legalized sports betting appeared to have major impact on ratings for NFL opener


Thursday night’s NFL season opener between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears was a sloppy affair that featured just 13 total points, but that did not stop an impressive number of football fans from tuning in. It would appear the league can thank the legalization of sports gambling for at least some of that.

Ratings for Thursday night’s game were about 15 percent higher than last year’s season opener, according to data obtained by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. Some of that can be attributed to the Packers and Bears having one of the most famed rivalries in all of sports, but ratings were also way up in markets where sports gambling has been legalized.

That isn’t exactly a surprise, but it is sure to excite NFL executives and team owners. On the surface, the NFL has tried to create the impression that there is grave concern over how legalized sports betting could potentially impact the integrity of the game. But when you see some of the estimates for how much money the league could make from legalized gambling, you know execs must be jumping for joy behind the scenes.

People have always gambled on games, but the legalization of betting opens up endless new possibilities. Whether you agree with it or not, there’s no question it has the potential to make the NFL — and other sports leagues — more popular than ever.

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