FIFA are due to kick off their first Winter World Cup on Sunday in Qatar.
The rescheduling of the event, which is usually held in the summer, presents strife for sports fans at a busy time in the US sporting calendar, and it could leave the world’s biggest sporting event an afterthought for sports players.
“If it took place during the summer months, usually [it would] be of broader interest,” PointsBet US CEO Johnny Aitken told Yahoo Finance. “If there is more interest, I think there will be more bets and overall money wagered on the World Cup.”
Aitken, like other gambling executives who spoke with Yahoo Finance, expects the World Cup to be a massive draw for players now that there is broader legalization of sports betting in the United States. But he doesn’t think it will top other key events like the Super Bowl or March Madness.
The projections from the American Gaming Association match this sentiment. The association estimates that $1.8 billion will be wagered on the World Cup. This comes well behind previous estimates for the March Madness 2022 tournament ($3.1 billion) and the Super Bowl ($7.61 billion).
Notably, the World Cup and March Madness have a similar structure. The college basketball tournament spans approximately one month and consists of 67 games played throughout that period, including weekdays. The World Cup will take on a similar format, with 64 matches played across a variety of time slots.
But there will be key differences for betting operations in the United States. For starters, football isn’t as popular in the US sports landscape as college athletics or the current professional offerings of the NFL and NBA, both of which will be active over the next few weeks, according to CEO Amy Howe. by FanDuel.
“Players just aren’t as well-known, so sometimes that doesn’t translate to 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 tournament matches will take place in the morning – in some cases before sunrise – on the East Coast.
Argentina, the most bet country to win the World Cup on Caesars (CZR), will kick off its first game at 5:00 a.m. ET next Tuesday.
“The honest answer is we’ll see how it plays out,” Howe said. “The time zone differences hurt you a bit.”
But there will be many advantages for the betting platforms throughout the tournament. Ken Fuchs, head of sports at Caesars, pointed out that differences in time zones could work to the advantage of sports betting at times. With popular teams like the United States and Brazil playing midday games during the Thanksgiving holiday week, sportsbooks will have extra inventory during typically quiet hours for sports.
Football also offers a different value proposition for bettors, Aitken argued. With so many Americans unsure of watching a full 90 minute game with limited scoring, bettors are likely to explore live betting options on predictions such as who will win the next free kick or whether a goal will be scored in five minutes. period. PointsBet predicts that these live markets could account for 80% of bets throughout the tournament.
“Making it easier for a wider audience to engage in the sport by having these kinds of flash bet offers will definitely work,” Aitken said. “We’ve seen that with a sport like tennis.”
Fuchs argued that regardless of time zones and match days, advancing teams will be the key indicators of sports betting handles throughout the tournament. Just as bettors flock to Tiger Woods at golf tournaments no matter how much of an underdog he is, American sports bettors back the home team during the World Cup.
At Caesars, the United States are the second best team bet to win the World Cup and hold 13% of the total money bet on a potential winner.
“Any time you have a big event like this, if the home team, USA, is doing well, people are going to want to hang on to it and they’ll bet,” Fuchs said. “This can be an additional opportunity from a sports betting perspective.”
Josh is a reporter and producer for Yahoo Finance.