How Does Betting Activity on the Stanley Cup Compare to Other League Championships?

How Does Betting Activity on the Stanley Cup Compare to Other League Championships? article feature image

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Zdeno Chara.

  • The Stanley Cup is a hockey fan's dream, but it's a relatively tame sporting event in the betting world.
  • With insights from William Bernanke of CG Technology and data from Bet Labs, we compared the betting activity to the rest of the leagues' championships.

The Stanley Cup Final is upon us, featuring the Bruins-Blues rematch we’ve been yearning for since 1970. As someone who loves hockey, it bugs me that it’s not nearly as mainstream as the other three “Big 4” sports. I guess I know what it feels like to be a lacrosse fan.

I wanted to see just how much less popular it is in the betting world, though.

When I asked William Bernanke of CG Technology about how large of a handle they get for a Stanley cup game compared to the other major sports, he said, “Stanley Cup games have much lower handle than the other three major sports. Since it is a regional sport the handle was about 50% higher with Vegas in last year’s final. Action has been steady otherwise in recent years. Some years are better than others when the teams are from bigger markets like the Kings-Rangers final.”

Not too surprising. However, he also added that last year’s games with Vegas involved were only about 40% more heavily-bet than a regular old baseball game and nowhere near an average NFL game.

For comparison’s sake, I wanted to see how Bernanke’s intel from Vegas lined up with our number-of-bets data in Bet Labs.

Stanley Cup Final

2018: 18-23k bets per game

2017: 12-21k

2016: 13-22k

As was the case in Vegas, we saw a definite uptick in the number of bets for last year’s Stanley Cup, including the most heavily-bet Stanley Cup game we’ve ever tracked at slightly over 23,000 tickets. While each of the prior two seasons featured some games closer to 10,000, last year’s averaged right around 20,000 for each of the five games.

World Series

2018: 21-39k bets per game

2017: 24-45k

2016: 7-47k

When it comes to the World Series, the low end of the spectrum is basically the high end of what we see in the Stanley Cup. There was one extreme outlier game in 2016 that saw just 7,000 bets, but every other game has had at least 20,000.

If we’re talking about regular season baseball action, we can just go ahead and look at yesterday’s slate — a random Tuesday night in May. Games ranged from 7,000 to 15,000, with the Reds-Brewers game being the most-heavily bet.

Is it kind of depressing that a Reds-Brewers game in May has more betting action than a lot of Stanley Cup games do? Yes, yes it is.

NBA Finals

2018: 11-48k bets per game

2017: 33-48k

2016: 38-64k

The NBA Finals are a bit more popular than the World Series, although last year also had an outlier at just 11,000. The most popular in recent history was of course the 2016 Finals that featured the infamous 3-1 blown lead. Game 7 of that series featured just shy of 64,000 bets, making it the most heavily-bet NBA game we’ve ever tracked.

All of these sports feature best-of-seven series to crown the victor, but as we saw in that winner-take-all Game 7 between the Cavs and Warriors, bettors are more apt to get some action down in do-or-die games. With that said, it’s no surprise that some of the one-game championships feature way more bets.

NCAAB Championship

2019: 75k bets

2018: 77k

2017: 75k

March Madness! Who doesn’t love March Madness!

In each of the past few seasons, the championship game has been right around 75,000 bets — topping anything that we’ve seen from the NHL, MLB or NBA.

Interestingly enough, there have actually been a handful of non-championship games that were more heavily bet than the 2018 final, which was the most heavily-bet title game we have on record. One Final Four, one Elite Eight and three Sweet 16 games have featured more tickets, with 2010’s Sweet 16 game between Cornell and Kentucky taking the cake at over 86,000 bets.

NCAAF Championship

2019: 110k bets

2018: 109k

2017: 142k

College football! Who doesn’t love college football?!?

We’re getting into some big time numbers, here, with games up into the six figures. The past couple of years have actually been fairly low-bet compared to some other title games in years past.

2009’s championship game between Tim Tebow’s Florida and Sam Bradford’s Oklahoma was the most heavily-bet college football game we’ve ever tracked with over 185,000 bets.

Super Bowl

2019: 181k bets

2018: 252k

2017: 217k

No surprise here, but the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of betting. It seems like folks may be getting a little tired of Tom Brady and the Patriots if we look at the mere 181,000 bets in this past year’s Super Bowl. The fact that the Rams have a mediocre Los Angeles fan base probably didn’t help, either.

The most heavily-bet NFL game we’ve ever recorded was actually the 2016 Super Bowl between the Panthers and Broncos at 285,000. The 252k and 217k put up in 2018 and 2017 are the second and third highest, respectively.

While we are on the NFL, I wanted to look at a random Sunday afternoon just to see what type of numbers they put up compared to the Stanley Cup.

I chose Week 7 of this past season … seems random enough for me. In the 1 p.m. Sunday time slot, games ranged from about 8,500 bets (Lions at Dolphins) to about 20,500 (Patriots at Bears). The games in the 4 p.m. hour all had between 30,000 and 37,000 bets, while the Sunday Night Football game between the Bengals and Chiefs boasted 73,000 bets — blowing away not only every Stanley Cup game, but also the best that the MLB or NBA has to offer.

BREAKING: the NFL is indeed quite popular and the NHL isn’t catching up any time soon … or ever.

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