Brand new sports book inside of Harrah's casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Brand new sports book inside of Harrah's casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

By: Chris Stoehr, Colby Becker, John Zurcher, Ryan Bier

Watching sports can be a thrill and stressful all at the same time. Add in betting on sports, and that thrill and stress rise to an entirely new level. Over the past year, sports betting has become legal in many states around the United States, and it has caught the attention of many sports fans. The real question is: does betting on sports make a difference in viewership in sports?

People who bet on sports are always interested in the games they bet on and therefore tend to watch more and more games as they continue to gamble. According to Forbes.com, studies have shown that 70% of Americans would be more likely to watch a game that they bet on. An even more staggering stat, 88% of people 18-29 say they would be more likely to watch a game they bet on.

These statistics can be seen throughout the early season of college and professional football and the conclusion of Major League Baseball (MLB). In Week 1 alone, the NFL saw a 5% increase in viewership.

In Iowa, sports betting became legal in August of 2019, and the three leading casinos, Harrah’s, Ameristar II, and Horseshoe, all have seen the benefits of sports betting and people coming in to watch games. According to the Iowa Gaming Commission, in total, the three have combined to make a profit of $763,079.71.

With so many college students betting on sports, many feel like they have to watch the game they bet on; otherwise, it’s not as fun.

“I always watch the games that I bet on,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln student, Trevin Little said. “If I can’t watch the game, then I don’t bet on it. I feel like it adds an extra thrill to the game. I have a superstition where if I am watching the game, something good will happen in my favor.”

Some people feel as if watching the game can be too overwhelming, and they can’t handle the stress. A senior UNL student, Chad Lechtenberg, places bets and has his own opinions on how to watch games.

“I don’t watch the games that I bet on,” Lechtenberg said. “I feel like it makes no difference if I watch it or not. I’m not superstitious or anything, so why add stress when I don’t need to. The outcome won’t change.”

Harrah’s casino in Council Bluffs just finished building its new sportsbook where people flood the casino on the weekends.

“Saturday and Sunday bring in the most people, and it is not even close,” Harrah’s casino pit boss, Matt Wever said. “But with that, we probably have at least 500 more people on Sundays than on Saturdays. That is just the power of the NFL.”

A lot of recent talk around Nebraska involves sports betting and having casinos come to the state. The people of Nebraska love watching their Huskers play on game day, and sports betting takes it to a whole new level.

“Nebraska fans come up here every week and swarm this place,” Wever said. “They love betting on their Huskers.”

With football starting up, MLB has taken a back seat in terms of viewership, and consequently, the amount of bets placed on baseball games during the week has also decreased.

“We didn’t have the sportsbook open during the summer when baseball was in full swing, so we were hoping people would come in on weekdays to bet on baseball,” Wever said. “However, we are not getting the amount of wagers we were hoping for. The weekdays are very slow and not exciting.”