The Patriots’ loss in the NFL playoffs drives record sports betting revenues for RI.

  • Rhode Island set a new monthly record for gross sports betting revenue in January.
  • This historic success was powered largely by a Patriots upset loss to the Titans.
  • This is an exact reversal of the situation from the 2019 NFL playoffs.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In a stark reversal of 2019, Rhode Island sportsbooks set a new record for gross revenue in January 2020. This new record coincided directly with the Tennessee Titans’ upset victory over the New England Patriots in the 2020 NFL Playoff Wild Card Round.

In 2019, January and February were disastrous for sports betting operators in Rhode Island. Nearby Patriots fans flocked to bet on their favorite team, who proceeded to both win and cover the spread in all three playoff matchups en route to a surprising Super Bowl victory over the favored Los Angeles Rams.

In January 2019, Rhode Island sportsbooks handled a total of $19.1 million in wagers but captured only $160,000 in revenue—a hold percentage of 0.84%.

The Super Bowl that followed pushed Rhode Island’s February sports betting revenues well into the red.

In 2020, the January handle increased moderately, to $26.9 million, but the revenues increased exponentially up to $3.3 million. This represents a hold of 12.17%, which is the second-highest monthly total in Rhode Island’s short sports betting history, trailing only the 14.59% of June 2019.

The betting handle actually decreased by several million dollars from the totals in October, November and December 2019, but the high hold percentage allowed Rhode Island to surpass its previous monthly gross revenue record by over $500,000 (19.4%).

How Does A Patriots Loss Make Such A Huge Difference?

NFL playoff games are some of the most wagered-on single events in the United States, and in January, college basketball betting is still far from its peak.

Because of a combination of the NFL’s popularity and a scarcity of sporting events to bet on, a small number of results can  cause wild swings in revenue.

Sports bettors tend to go with their heart over logic, so regional sportsbooks usually see a disproportionate volume of bets on local teams. When local teams win, this means deflated betting revenue. When they lose, revenues inflate.

Regional oddsmakers try to compensate for this effect by heavily weighting lines in favor of local teams, but sometimes the overwhelming volume of bets make these efforts irrelevant.

In the 2019 playoffs, the Patriots beat the spread by at least eight points in every game. Data on the region-adjusted spread for these games isn’t available, but it’s unlikely that they shifted enough to protect against such a huge disparity.

In 2020, the Patriots were 4.5-point favorites against the Titans and lost by a touchdown. The same force of hometown bias that was so problematic in 2019 swung in the bookmakers’ favor in 2020 and paved the way for historic success.

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