The American Gaming Association has revealed that a record 45.2m Americans (18 per cent) plan to wager on the 2021 National Football League, which would represent a 36 per cent uptick from the past season.

Although wagering on the sport is expected to be up across all methods, betting with online sportsbooks is expected to see the largest increase over 2020, while illegal bookies are expected to see the slowest growth.

The AGA projects that 21.7m American adults will bet on the 2021 NFL season casually with friends, which would be up 31 per cent from 2020, with 19.5m to place a bet online (legal and illegal), up 73 per cent.

Furthermore, 10.5m, up 58 per cent, will place a bet at a physical casino sportsbook, with 6.7m, up 13 per cent, to place a bet with a bookie, and 14.6m will participate in a paid fantasy contest or other type of pool competition, which is up 69 per cent.

These increases come as a result of the continued expansion of legal sports betting options and soaring enthusiasm overall for the upcoming season. 

Fans in 18 states and Washington DC had access to operational, legal sports betting at the start of the 2020 season, with that figure growing to 26 states and Washington DC this time around. 

Furthermore, five additional states likely to offer legal sports betting by the end of the season, including the anticipated launches of Arizona, South Dakota, and Washington by opening day kick-off on September 9.

“Sports betting is more popular than ever among Americans, and the enthusiasm of bettors for the upcoming NFL season highlights the remarkable growth of the industry over the past three years,” said Bill Miller, AGA president and CEO

“Importantly, when the 2021 NFL season begins, more than 111m American adults will be able to wager safely with regulated sportsbooks in their home states rather than with the predatory illegal market.”

The research also shows that 37 per cent of NFL fans are planning to wager on this year’s season, including nearly half (47 per cent) of self-described avid fans. 

Moreover, 44 per cent of all Americans, and 63 per cent of NFL fans, believe that in-venue sportsbooks will add entertainment value to attending sporting events in-person.

Fans from the northeast (21 per cent) are most interested in betting on the NFL this year, followed by the west (18 per cent), midwest (17 per cent), and south (15 per cent). 

“Fans are the heartbeat of professional sports, and leagues like the NFL are realising the full potential of sports betting to drive fan engagement,” added Miller. 

“To capitalise on this tremendous opportunity, the NFL and its 32 teams must also realize their responsibility to educate fans and promote responsible gaming.”