20 Sports Betting Industry Highlights of 2020


Tyson Fury landing a punch on Deontay Wilder

Tyson Fury, of England, lands a right to Deontay Wilder, left, during a WBC heavyweight championship boxing match in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

  • Even without the major professional sports leagues for about four months, the sports betting industry had a very successful year in 2020
  • Which event had the most money wagered on it?
  • See the highlights of the year for the sports betting world below

On the whole, 2020 was a very challenging year. Among all the nastiness we were dealt, however, there were a few highlights, especially in the sports betting industry. Even without March Madness, and a four month layoff from the NBA, NHL, and MLB, 2020 was still a very successful year for the sports betting industry.

Here are the 20 biggest highlights of 2020 from the sports betting world:

1) Browns Provide Bad Beat of the Year

Ok, before we get into the positive stuff, let’s get all the negative out of the way. Remember the Week 14 game between the Ravens and Browns on Monday Night Football? It was one of the best games of the year. But it didn’t end well for many bettors.

The Browns closed as 3/3.5-point underdogs, depending where you looked. Cleveland found themselves down three with the ball at their own 25-yard-line, and only a couple seconds left in the game.

At this point, Browns bettors are either sitting on a push or a win. Then catastrophe struck. The Browns ended up pushing themselves all the way back to their own goal line, and threw the ball out the back of their endzone for a safety, awarding the Ravens two points, ripping the hearts out of Cleveland bettors across the country.

2) The Timberwolves Owe You Money

If you made a habit of betting the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2020, you might need a couple of those stimulus checks. The T-Wolves were an awful 13-23 against the spread from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. If you bet one unit on every Timberwolves game this year, you’d be down 10.54 units.

Super Bowl 55 Odds Tracker

The spread is there to even the playing field, attempting to make every game a coin flip. For a team to consistently underperform like this is just gross. Minnesota owes you money!

Honorable mention goes to the Houston Texans, who will finish the calendar year 6-11 against the spread, which includes their two playoff games from back in January of last year’s playoffs.

3) Public Got Killed in Ravens vs Patriots Week 10 Matchup

Per BetMGM, the single game where the sportsbook profited the most was Week 10’s Sunday Night Football clash between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. The Ravens were 7-point favorites, and the public was all over them.

New England was coming off a lousy performance against the Jets, only beating them by three points. Baltimore, on the other hand, was fresh off a 24-10 win over the Colts.

The Ravens would only win 23-17, seeing sportsbooks rake in a huge profit.

4) Sports Betting Event of the Year

Most years, you can just chalk this up to the Super Bowl. However, there was an event in 2020 that had a bigger handle (more money wagered on it): Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury II on February 23.

Their first fight ended in a controversial split decision in December of 2018. About 15 months later, the two undefeated heavyweights squared off again in a fight that received around 1.2 million PPV buys in the US alone.

Fury dominated Wilder from start to finish, picking up the win by TKO in the seventh round. After the fight, Wilder claimed the costume he entered in tired his legs out.

Other notables include:

  1. Super Bowl 54 (February 2)
  2. Seahawks vs Eagles (November 30)
  3. Ravens vs Patriots (November 15)
  4. Vikings vs Bears (November 16)

5) Biggest Bets Won

Now we’re into the good stuff! Per BetMGM, the biggest single game winning bet came on November 29, when one bettor placed $500,000 on the Minnesota Vikings to cover as 0.5-point favorites against the Panthers.

This bettor grabbed a great line, as Minnesota closed as 3-point favorites. The Vikings went on to win 28-27, providing a $510,000 win for the bettor, returning $1.1 million.

The biggest parlay won at BetMGM this year was a two-team MLB parlay of the over (7.5) in Detroit vs St Louis and the Oakland A’s moneyline (-180). The bettor placed $100,000 on the parlay, winning $206,000, returning $306,000.

The biggest same-game parlay winner turned $10 into $15,000 with this ten-leg parlay on December 27:

  1. D. Lillard over 8.5 assists
  2. J. Harden over 10.5 assists
  3. C. Wood over 22.5pts
  4. CJ. McCollum over 18.5pts
  5. D. House Jr. over 9.5pts
  6. D. Lillard over 30.5pts
  7. J. Harden 40+pts
  8. C. Wood over 11.5 rebounds
  9. D. Jones Jr. over 4.5 rebounds
  10. P.J. Tucker over 6.5 rebounds

Biggest Bets Won in Each Sport

Sport Biggest Single Game Win Biggest Parlay Win
NFL $510,000 ($500K bet on Vikings -0.5 in Week 12) $101,000 ($132K bet on Bills and Colts moneylines in Week 4)
NBA $165,327 ($71,881 bet on Nuggets +230) $52,797 ($80 bet on five-team parlay on August 4)
MLB $427,203 ($164,309 bet on Angels +260 on September 6) $206,000 ($100K bet on two-team parlay on September 10)
NCAAF $522,500 ($550K bet on Iowa State moneyline on November 27) $139,543 ($9 bet on nine-team parlay on September 12)
NCAAM $462,000 ($440K bet on Gonzaga -16 on November 27) $65,051 ($23,083 bet on Georgia -5.5 and Seton Hall -26.5 on December 8)

There were a total of five bettors who won at least $500K on single game NFL bets, and four $500K winners on college football bets at BetMGM.

The NBA only had one single game winner of more than $70K.

6) Four More States Legalize Sports Betting

In total, 18 states offer some form of legalized sports betting. The following four passed legislation in 2020:

  • Michigan in March
  • Colorado on May 1
  • Illinois on March 9
  • Tennessee on November 1

7) Sports Betting Stocks Surge

If you chose to invest in sports betting stocks, 2020 was a great year for you financially. Here are some of the bigger sports betting stocks and their respective increases from January 2, 2020 to December 31, 2020:

  • DraftKings: +336%
  • Penn National Gaming Inc: +230.4%
  • Bally’s Corp: +98.7%

8) Big Name Personalities and Properties Join Betting World

The sports betting world is one of the fastest growing markets in the US, and plenty of big names are eager to enter the space. Here are a few who joined in 2020:

You’ll continue hearing plenty more of these in 2021.

9) Biggest Underdog Win of the Year

Jim Herman won the Wyndham Championship in August as a +50000 long shot. Herman finished at 21-under, beating Billy Horschel by one stroke.

If you’re looking to biggest single game upset, that honour goes to the New York Jets, who beat the Rams in Week 15 as 17-point underdogs. Jets moneyline bettors had them at +1000.

10) Best Teams to Bet On

The Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the biggest surprises of the 2019-20 NBA season. Led by Chris Paul, the Thunder consistently outperformed expectations and covered a lot of spreads.

OKC went 27-19 ATS in 2020, covering in 58.7% of their games. You would have been up 6.89 units had you bet one unit on each of their games.

Other profitable teams include:

  • Miami Dolphins 11-4 ATS in 2020 (+6.27 units)
  • Boston Celtics 36-26-2 ATS (+6.55 units)

11) Biggest Non-Sports Event

The Academy Awards, Grammy’s, and other entertainment awards shows always pull in pretty big handles for sportsbooks. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest always does well too. However, all of these non-sporting events were dwarfed in 2020 betting handle by the Presidential Election in November.

The Presidential Election odds were all over the place leading up to November and saw major swings as the count began. Even Donald Trump acknowledged the betting action on the event.

12) Sports Bettors Found Things to Bet On

When all major professional sports leagues shut down in March, some wrote stories about how this could be the beginning of the end for sports and sports betting. Those were awful takes.

Instead, we got creative with sporting events and manufactured things to bet on. Here are some of our favorites from 2020:

  • KBO (Korean baseball) – it created some late nights, but this was the closest thing bettors had to a traditional sports league and it was back as early as May
  • Marble Racing – they literally raced marbles through tracks and people bet on it
  • Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance” documentary – you could bet on which events would be shown and what words will be said, among other things
  •  The weather – I’m 100% serious … you could bet on minimum and maximum temperatures in major cities, as well as whether any would experience rain

13) Tyson’s Return to the Ring

Mike Tyson had not fought since 2005. On November 29, 2020, he returned to the ring in an exhibition match against Roy Jones Jr.

Despite the slightly confusing terms of the fight, sportsbooks still offered Tyson vs Jones traditional bets as well as some props for the event.

The fight would end in a draw.

14) McGregor Returned to the Octagon

We had not seen Conor McGregor in the UFC since he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October of 2018. McGregor made his return in January of 2020 at UFC 246 against Donald Cerrone.

We only saw 40 seconds of action from McGregor, though, as he scored a TKO victory in the first round.

MMA fans don’t have to wait as long to see McGregor again, as he’s set to fight Dustin Poirier on January 23.

15) Mayweather Signs Contract to Fight Logan Paul

Whether you’re a fan of Logan Paul or someone who can’t wait for him to get punched in the head (or maybe both), you’re looking forward to the first quarter of 2021, when Paul will take on Floyd Mayweather in a PPV event.

The two agreed to a contract on December 6, and Mayweather opened as the heavy favorite.

16) The Rock Buys the XFL

The XFL quickly grabbed the attention of sports bettors in its second stint in 2020. The league became a fan favorite largely thanks to the way they embraced sports betting.

On a weekly basis you had the spread and total on the score bug at the bottom of the broadcast, and the commentators didn’t just subtly mention that late scores were “significant to some”. They were consistently discussing betting implications all game.

Unfortunately, the league did not finish their season, shutting down operations on March 13 due to COVID. They declared bankruptcy shortly after in April.

But then The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) saved the day. Johnson and his business partner Dany Garcia bought the league and announced it will return to play in spring of 2022.

17) Iga Swiatek Becomes First Polish Person to Win a Slam

Iga Swiatek was one of the best underdog stories of 2020. Not only did she become the first Polish person to win a Slam, but she had odds as long as +4000 to win the French Open.

Swiatek upset the no. 1 seed Simona Halep in straight sets to advance to the quarterfinals. She then went on to beat Martina Trevisan, Nadia Podoroska, and no. 4 seed Sofia Kenin in the finals, winning each match in straight sets.

It was an absolutely dominant performance.

18) Total Sports Betting Handle in 2020

Entering December, we were just shy of $17,000,000,000 wagered on sports in the US. We won’t see December’s numbers for at least a few more days, but it’s likely we surpass $20 billion for the year.

This is quite significant since we didn’t have sports for a third of the year. The states with the biggest handles in 2020 are as follows:

  1. Nevada
  2. New Jersey
  3. Colorado
  4. Mississippi
  5. Indiana

19) Sport With the Biggest Increase in Betting Action

Per BetMGM, these are the sports that saw the biggest increase in betting handle in 2020:

  1. MMA
  2. Golf
  3. Soccer
  4. College Basketball
  5. College Football

It makes a lot of sense that MMA saw the biggest increase, since they were one of the first sports to return to action after COVID shutdowns.

Dana White was able to resume UFC events in May that took place in Florida, Nevada, and he also secured “Fight Island” and held many events in Abu Dhabi.

Golf was another sport that was able to return quickly, holding events as early as May.

20) Best New Feature at Sportsbooks

We’re still pretty early in the life of sports betting and sportsbooks are continuing to evolve and provide new offerings for bettors.

The best feature added in 2020 were odds boosts.

Each day sportsbooks take bets for the day and offer boosted odds. For example, the consensus line on the Broncos to win in Week 17 is +130. But a sportsbook might offer an odds boost on it, offering it at a better price, +150 for example.

Some sportsbooks generally stick to long shots here and parlays, boosting +1500 odds to +1700, for example. However, some books are providing real value and turning -110 odds into +110 or better.

Odds boosts are a great way for bettors to maximize profit. But be careful not fall in love with every sale.