The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down federal laws against sports gambling has revolutionized betting in the US. Despite not all states legalizing betting, market insights from the American Gambling Association suggest that bettors spent $125bn in the four years since the decision.
A gargantuan figure, but one which hasn’t included the world’s biggest sports betting event. The last FIFA Men’s World Cup in 2018 arrived just after legalization. Add in the reduced interest after USMNT’s failure to qualify, this will be the first World Cup where most Americans can legally bet – and have a national interest in the tournament.
FIFA figures suggest that gamblers spent €136bn ($155bn) during the 2018 World Cup. The addition of US gamblers means this tournament’s takings will comfortably surpass this. However, what do gambling firms need to do to energize Americans who haven’t had the opportunity to wager on a World Cup?
To find out, we turned to text analysis. We wanted to gather market insights into which aspects of soccer betting engage US audiences. To do this, we used a social listening tool to obtain American betting conversations on soccer gambling and its US sporting namesake – football gambling. By comparing these two sports – one ingrained in American sports culture and one on the rise – we could eliminate the obvious, such as use of words like ‘bet’, and surface what is unique to how each audience talks.
Despite the sports having the same name in different parts of the world, there’s a lot to distinguish them when it comes to US gamblers.
Soccer freshness highlights football cynicism
American bettors demonstrate a novelty factor when betting on soccer games. They’re 20.3x more likely overall to discuss aspects which are unique to soccer which they can bet on, such as ‘corners’, betting on the number of cards, their parlay wagers being ‘cashed’ and ‘btts’ (both teams to score) bets.
However, it’s the prospect of ‘ties’ which really sets their tongues wagging. They’re 6.7x more likely to discuss ‘ties’, while also discussing the potential ‘dnb’ (draw no bet) wagers 31.4x more. As a rarity in US sports given overtime rules, navigating these variances is something gamblers are still adjusting to. Similarly, the use of goals over points in soccer is leading more gamblers to place ‘exact’ score bets, with the word appearing 5.5x more.
“@chiarktj dude I’m such a moron for not just taking them +185 today. Another thing I love about soccer is the ties being a possibility will sometimes result in getting great value on some of the moneyline bets you’ll make.“
When it comes to football, familiarity breeds contempt. The relaxation in gambling rules has led many online commentators to blame football’s collaboration with sportsbooks for unusual events. They’re 7.3x to use the word ‘rigged’ in relation to football betting, while they mention ‘officiating’ infinitely more – meaning the word doesn’t appear in the soccer betting conversations we gathered.
They’re also 6.9x more likely to highlight a lack of integrity and infinitely likely to use the word ‘convinced’ to suggest they’re convinced there’s foul play occurring.
“The NFL isn’t even real anymore it’s all betting and fixed I am convinced.“
While these may be conspiracy theories, the fact that bettors are feeling this way and sharing it online suggests they’re ready to gamble on other sports which they perceive as not being in sportsbooks’ pockets.
Displays of knowledge versus carefree ignorance
As well as getting hot under the collar over results, football gamblers liked to demonstrate their knowledge. They liked to list out all of their bets for the day, emphasizing what came in either with the ✅ emoji (used 1.5x more) or the 💰 ✅ emojis (used infinitely more).
These bettors were also keen differentiate themselves from others gambling on football. They were 4.5x more likely to use the word ‘public’, often criticizing bets the general population had made.
“Chris Olave over 63.5 rec yards ✅ I’ve won 12 straight Nfl bets now.“
In contrast, soccer bettors were happy to display their ignorance, suggesting that they were dabbling in a sport they weren’t as familiar with for the fun of it. They were 2.6x more likely to talk about making ‘random’ bets and infinitely more likely to describe who they’d placed a wager on as ‘obscure’.
However, they also acknowledged that this YOLO mentality had its drawbacks. They used the word ‘risky’ 6.0x more, while soccer bettors were 2.9x more likely to use the word ‘tried’ – signalling they’d tried to bet on soccer but lost multiple times.
“I’m betting soccer as we speak picked a random game to go under looking good so far.“
Soccer hasn’t reached critical mass
Despite soccer’s growing popularity in the US, our market insights show it doesn’t yet stand alone. Bettors discussing soccer were 6.0x more likely to talk about sports at the same time. They mentioned ‘hockey’ 6.8x more and ‘tennis’ 8.3x more than in relation to football bets.
“6:28 am and I’m up betting on soccer and tennis games that I have no clue about.“
This highlights that people aren’t yet prioritizing soccer betting, but including it with bets on other sports.
Football betting on the other hand is part of people’s routines. Online football betting conversations were more likely to mention timelines and days of the week – fore examples the word ‘Sunday’ (traditional NFL game day) appeared 3.8x more in these conversations. Betting on football has evolved to be part of people’s normal behavior, despite gambling only becoming available to many over the past four years.
“I always tell myself ‘I’m looking forward to Sunday so I can relax and watch some football’ and then I end up stressing and sweating my bets all day and get no relaxing done.“
An opportunity for soccer gamblers
Our market insights have demonstrated that despite soccer’s growing popularity in America, betting on the sport is still seen as a novelty, rather than an ingrained part of life. This could all change during the World Cup, with sportsbooks accessing an untapped market.
While national interest in the tournament and the popularity of the English Premier League set to make group B – featuring the USMNT, England and Wales – a key gambling focus, it’s clear from our analysis that soccer bettors are happy to put money on teams they don’t know anything about. This bodes well for oddsmakers in a tournament containing 32 teams, many of which gamblers won’t be familiar with.
However, enticing citizens to bet on soccer will take work. With multiple games taking place on most days, it could be that bettors get into a rhythm of placing bets similar to their football betting patterns. More likely is that sportsbooks will need to list World Cup odds with other sports to encourage bets.
Generating market research from a variety of text data sources – including social media conversations – gives brands a competitive advantage by enabling them to tap into what consumers want. Find out how you could utilize text analysis by requesting a demo now.