After years of political effort, months of preparation, and weeks of seemingly endless ads, New Jersey sportsbooks got what they wanted. Online and in-person, across the Garden State, players filled out bet slips and wagered money on the first weekend of the NFL’s regular season. For the first time, a state that hosts NFL franchises could legally offer fans the chance to bet the sport.
Atlanta burns bettors
Opening night brought anticipation and anxiety as the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles raised their Super Bowl banner and welcomed the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. For months, Philadelphia was a comfortable favorite over the team they beat in the Divisional Round (as an underdog, mind you) in January. Handicappers and analysts wondered if the books in Atlantic City would offer regional bias to the local team.
That didn’t move the line. Carson Wentz’s absence from the game moved it. A lot.
During the week, the spread that favored Philly by four points or more dropped across the books. Some saw the game turn to a pick’em by Thursday night, while others kept the Eagles a slight favorite.
Before kickoff, William Hill tweeted out some data to show what led to the swing. While tickets were almost even, the Falcons got 86% of the money bet on the spread. The Falcons had the Eagles covered 8-to-1 (88%) on cash for moneyline bets.
Just one minor thing the bettors may have overlooked: the Falcons aren’t great at goalline situations. Defensive stands bookended the game as the Eagles escaped with an 18-12 victory.
DraftKings makes history
DraftKings was the first to launch an online sportsbook in the Garden State in early August. Unsurprisingly, they were the first to reach 1 million bets, when a $3 bet early Saturday morning earned that distinction. The site offered bonus money to those making milestones bets as they counted up to a million wagers. The lucky player earned $10,000 in free bets. Alas, my $25 wager on Thursday night didn’t make any history (it did make me money).
Players excited for sports betting in New Jersey knew the NFL’s arrival meant one major new opportunity: in-game betting. If a game seems decided (or weather delays like in Miami make it unbearably long), in-game action is often the one reason to keep watching. Think you know who’s scoring next? How about the next play from scrimmage? There’s a bet for that.
PlaySugarHouse launched last month with millions of options available. During Sunday’s action, the site offered over 300 in-game plays during the peak of activity. Games had 50 or more in-game bets available.
“We’re very happy with the numbers we saw with the NFL opening this week,” said Mattias Stetz, Chief Operating Officer of Rush Street Interactive, which operates SugarHouse Online Sportsbook & Casino. “We believe that the player base will continue to grow as word spreads about the quality and volume of the different live in-game bets PlaySugarHouse.com offers. We are excited about the rest of the football season and look forward to seeing our numbers climb as we strive to continue to offer our players a great user experience.”
Trends rule at FanDuel
Sunday featured the first NFL game where home fans could bet at a regulated book within the same complex as the stadium. It wasn’t easy to get to FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands (apparently some fans had trouble finding the shuttle bus) but once they did, action was lively.
The betting public didn’t like the Giants during the preseason. However, their game drew the most handle of the afternoon. The money line grew to +150 for New York before kickoff. Despite the best efforts of Saquon Barkley, the Jaguars won and covered.
While Thursday’s Eagles win helped William Hill and others, FanDuel capitalized most on the Buccaneers’ upset of the Saints. New Orleans came in -500 favorites with a 10-point spread. Not much money came in to counter the public.
In-game action saw huge ML swings in the most bizarre early game. Pittsburgh was -20000 at FanDuel to win when they stretched their early lead. In overtime, a turnover that put the Browns in position to win swung the line to -3300. The game ended in a tie. FanDuel returned all ML bets on the game.
Rodgers’ roller coaster at Lambeau
On paper, the Sunday night game between Green Bay and Chicago seemed an innocuous match-up. Yes, the addition of Khalil Mack made the Bears more potent on defense but the Pack had home field and Aaron Rodgers. The books made them around a touchdown favorite.
Then things got weird. Rodgers goes down, the Bears go up multiple scores. At halftime, Chicago was a -3300 ML favorite and the Pack’s odds jumped to +1500 at FanDuel with the former MVP’s night in question. DraftKings saw the home team go to +1800 and one fan bet $2,000 on the Bears to win at -3333 (expected profit: $60). Once Rodgers returned to the field, FanDuel dropped the Pack’s odds to +800 and the DK bettor cashed out his bet, losing almost $200 of his original investment. DK did have a player stake $473 when the odds were lowest on Green Bay, turning that into over $6,000 when Rodgers pulled more fourth-quarter magic and led his team to a 24-23 win.