A Record Number of People Will Bet on the NFL This Year; We Answered Basic Sports Betting Questions You Were Afraid to Ask

Written By Katie Kohler on September 7, 2021
Sports betting reaching record numbers for NFL in 2021.

It’s setting up to be a record-breaking year for the NFL and the regular season hasn’t even started. The American Gaming Association reported that a record 45.2 million Americans, about 18% of the population, plan to bet on the NFL in 2021. It’s a 36% increase from last year which the AGA attributes to more states legalizing sports betting and increased enthusiasm for the upcoming season.

Judging by #GamblingTwitter, almost everyone is an expert on sports betting. Or is someone from the deep end of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal’s gene pool or has a direct line to him in the afterlife. 

In the cesspool of social media, no one wants to ask basic questions for fear of getting roasted in the comments.  Not everyone is a sharp. Most people just view sports betting as recreational and a $100 bet is too steep. That’s okay. Find what works for you, your risk tolerance and your bankroll.

I don’t have access to the reams of research the AGA does. But in the week or two leading up to the start of the college football and the NFL season, I get more texts and Facebook messages than I do at any other point of the year. They are all from friends and acquaintances who want to start to bet on sports. More new bettors come with questions. And, as one prefaced their questions about sports betting: “I don’t want mansplaining, judgment, or someone yelling at me. Just answer my stupid questions.”

Basic questions about sports betting

For real though, is sports betting legal?

Sports betting is legal in 26 states and Washington, DC. It’s likely by Super Bowl LVI, five more states will also have legal sports betting.

Betting on sports has been legal in Pennsylvania since December 2018 and sports betting apps started launching in the summer of 2019.

How do I know if a sportsbook is legit?

There are 13 legal regulated sports betting apps in Pennsylvania. They include familiar names like FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars, BetRivers and Barstool. To see if the site is regulated by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, scroll down to the bottom of the page or app and you should see this:

PGCB regulated

What do all those numbers mean in sports betting?

What is a moneyline bet?

Simply put, a moneyline bet is where you pick which team will win the game outright. Depending on whether you pick the favorite or the underdog, your payout on a correct pick will vary drastically.

What the heck does the plus before the number in sports betting mean?

The plus (+) before a number means the team is the underdog.

If the Philadelphia Eagles are +200 on the moneyline, their odds are 2 to 1 (odds divided by 100). If you place a $10 bet on them to win (and they do win), you profit $20 (double your money) and get your original $10 bet back.

The bigger the number that follows the + sign, the lower the chance the team has of winning in the oddsmakers estimation. That’s why if you do bet on the long shot and they win, the payout is much greater.

What does the minus before the number in sports betting mean?

The minus symbol (-) means the team is the favorite. The odds for the favorite are based on a potential $100 win. If the Pittsburgh Steelers are -150 on the moneyline, you would have to bet $150 to win $100 on the moneyline (plus your original $150 bet back).

If you placed a successful $100 bet on them to win, you would win $66.67 (plus your original $100 back).

What does it mean when a plus or minus is in front of a team for the point spread?

Eagles +5 would mean the Eagles are five-point underdogs. To cover the point spread, the Eagles can lose by less than 5 or win the game.

If the Eagles are -5, they are five-point favorites. The Birds would need to win by at least 6 to cover a 5-point spread. Remember, if the Eagles win 25-20 in this instance, it’s a “push” and the bettor gets back the original wager.

What is the vig?

I know, right? There are a lot of numbers and I failed Algebra. Vig or “vigorish” is the sportsbook’s cut for taking the action. You didn’t think they were doing this for free, did you?

For spread or over/under (total game points) bets, you will see another number in parenthesis:

Eagles +5 (-110)

That number tells you the payout odds for a winning bet. In this case, you would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $55 to win $50, etc.). The extra 10% represents the vig.

Payout odds of +100 signifies an even-money payout with no “juice” going to the sportsbook. They will usually make up for this by adjusting the other side of the bet to something like -120 or -125.

Choosing the right sports betting app

What sports betting app is the best?

It depends what you are judging it on. Some want the best welcome offers. A risk-free bet up to $1,000 sounds great but remember, if you lose, the bonus comes back in site credit which does have an expiration date on it.

Are you looking for the best odds? Pennsylvania sportsbooks face the highest taxes of any state so you might not love the prices and the almost standard -110 vig. Some sportsbooks use the same odds provider like Kambi so you’ll see the same odds across some sites.

The best advice I could give you is to shop around. Open the apps and “play around” in them. Are they easy to navigate? How do their prices compare to other sportsbooks? What type of data on games do they offer or is it simply, “here’s the lines”?

Should I have more than one sports betting app?

I would recommend it. How else are you going to compare who is offering better odds?

How can I hide my sports betting app from my wife?

Communication is important to any relationship. I am not here to help you hide things from your wife. First of all, why do you want to hide it? It’s not illegal (see above). Second, bet with your head not over it.

But if you really want to know, put a password on your phone and put the app in your “fantasy football folder” on your phone.

Or, simply tell your significant other (women bet on sports, too), that sports betting is out of the shadows.

“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 AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. “Importantly, when the 2021 NFL season begins, more than 111 million* American adults will be able to wager safely with regulated sportsbooks in their home states rather than with the predatory illegal market.”

Picking a winner

I’m not interested in losing. Can you give me some tips about who is going to win?

I am not a tout or a handicapper. And even people who bet on sports for a living, rarely win more than 55% of the time over the long term.

My uncle’s barber never loses. Whenever his old football injury acts up, the Steelers cover. He hits on 90% of his bets.

He’s lying. Ask to see bet slips.

Lead image:FanDuel Sportsbook at Live! Casino Philadelphia by Katie Kohler.

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist and Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania. Katie especially enjoys creating unique content and on-the-ground reporting in PA. She is focused on creating valuable, timely content about casinos and sports betting for readers. Katie has covered the legal Pennsylvania gambling industry for Catena Media since 2019.

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