Americans have pulled back on online sports betting following the end of the 2021 NFL season, suggesting the country’s most popular sports league was driving much of the action in late 2021. 

In December, at the height of the NFL’s race to the playoffs, 18% of Americans ages 21+ said they were betting on sports online. Now, even amid the NBA and NHL playoffs, that figure is down to 13% in a new CivicScience survey – despite the fact that 30 U.S. states now allow online sports betting.

A look at sports bettors’ favorite leagues seems to support this theory.

Only 2 in 10 online sports bettors don’t follow the NFL to some degree. For the NHL and NBA, that figure is closer to 4 in 10. Baseball is bettors’ second-favorite sport, but that season is still in its early stages.

That might be why less than 10% of U.S. adults (21+) plan to place an online bet on either the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup Finals. Compare that with the 17% who planned to bet online for the Super Bowl in a CivicScience survey in February.

Even filtered solely among fans of each league, only a small minority say they’re likely to bet on the finals this year.

The NFL’s massive popularity is certainly a factor, but another component to this trend may be the scheduling layout of the other sports leagues. With only 17 games in an NFL regular season and a week between each game, there’s plenty of time for bettors to analyze and prepare. Meanwhile, the NBA and NHL have 82-game seasons, and MLB has a 162-game season – making each game statistically less important, and reducing the time between games. The NFL is also the only major league to adopt a single-elimination playoff format, while the other leagues use multiple-game series, again reducing the statistical importance of single playoff games.

When it comes to the sportsbook rat-race, it seems that DraftKings has pulled away from its closest competitors. FanDuel maintains a firm hold on second place, with a logjam of other contenders following after. Note that the following percentages are among online sports bettors only, not the general population.

While Americans eased up on online sports betting from December to May, it’s likely that the decline is related to the end of the NFL’s 2021 season. CivicScience will keep an eye on online sports betting this fall to see whether the return of pro football will boost online sportsbooks back to their 2021 levels.