FIFA kicks off its first Winter World Cup in Qatar on Sunday.
The postponement of the schedule for the event, which normally takes place in the summer, presents sports fans with conflict at a busy time on the American sports calendar and could leave the world’s biggest sporting event for sports gamers as an afterthought.
“If it generally took place in the summer months [it would] be of greater interest,” Johnny Aitken, CEO of PointsBet US, told Yahoo Finance. “If there is more interest, I think there will be more bets and more money overall on the World Cup.”
Aitken, like other gaming executives who spoke to Yahoo Finance, expects the World Cup to be a big draw for gamblers after there is broader sports betting legalization in the US. However, he doesn’t think she’ll surpass other major events like the Super Bowl in March Madness.
Forecasts from the American Gaming Association agree with this assessment. The association estimates that $1.8 billion will be wagered on the World Cup. That’s well below previous estimates for the 2022 March Madness tournament ($3.1 billion) and the Super Bowl ($7.61 billion).
In particular, the World Championship and March Madness share a similar structure. The college basketball tournament lasts about a month and consists of 67 games played during that time, including on weekdays. The World Cup will adopt a similar format, with 64 games played over a variety of time slots.
But there will be key differences for US betting operations. First off, soccer isn’t as popular in the American sports landscape as collegiate athletics or the current pro offerings of the NFL and NBA, both of which will be active in the coming weeks, according to Amy Howe, CEO of FanDuel.
“Players just aren’t as well known, so sometimes that doesn’t translate into as much betting activity,” Howe told Yahoo Finance.
The time change will also add an element of uncertainty to this year’s tournament. Qatar is eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, meaning many of the tournament’s games will be played in the mornings – before dawn in some cases – on the east coast.
Argentina, the country with the most bets to win the World Cup on Caesars (CZR), will have its first game next Tuesday at 5:00pm ET.
“The honest answer is we’ll see how it goes,” Howe said. “The time zone difference hurts you a bit.”
But there will be plenty of betting platform benefits throughout the tournament. Ken Fuchs, head of sports at Caesars, pointed out that time zone differences could work to the advantage of sports bettors in certain places. With popular teams like the USA and Brazil playing lunchtime games during the Thanksgiving holiday week, sportsbooks will have extra supplies during the normally quiet hours for sports.
Football also offers bettors another value proposition, Aitken argued. With so many Americans not as adept at watching a full 90-minute limited-score game, bettors will likely be checking live betting options for predictions, e.g. B. Who deserves the next free kick or if a goal will be scored in five minutes period. PointsBet estimates that these live markets could account for 80% of bets throughout the tournament.
“Easier engagement with the sport for a wider audience by having these types of blitz betting offers is definitely going to work,” Aitken said. “We saw that in a sport like tennis.”
Fuchs argued that regardless of time zones and game days, teams progressing will be the key indicators of sports betting handles throughout the tournament. Just as bettors flock to Tiger Woods at golf tournaments no matter the size of the underdog, US sports bettors support the home team during the World Cup.
At Caesars, the USA is the second best team seeded to win the World Cup and holds 13% of the total money staked on a potential winner.
“Any time you have a big event like this and the home team, the USA, is doing well, people are going to want to hold on to it and bet on it,” Fuchs said. “From a sports betting perspective, it can be an additional opportunity.”
Josh is a reporter and producer for Yahoo Finance.
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