The launch of sports betting in Massachusetts is approaching quickly. Expectations are that sports wagering could launch at retail casinos in January 2023, and online apps could be live by late February if all goes smoothly with the state regulatory process.
That puts right in the heart of the NBA and NHL seasons. Fans of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins will surely be more than ready to place a few bucks down on their favorite teams. The New England Patriots season will have likely wrapped up, with the Boston Red Sox getting ready for spring training.
But out of the four most popular teams in The Bay State, which one will draw in the most bets?
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Ranking the popularity of Boston’s ‘Big 4’ teams
It goes without saying that Boston is the home of some of the best sports fans in the country. They “Ride or Die” with the ‘Big 4’ teams through the good and the bad. With the launch of legal sports betting in Massachusetts around the corner, fan loyalty is expected to play a significant role in the state’s betting market. When attempting to project which teams will draw the most bets, a team’s popularity is an excellent tool to use.
Popularity by TV ratings
The old-school way of judging how well a team is liked is to go off the TV ratings. The most followed data comes from the Nielsen TV Ratings. Many factors come into play, like if the team is winning and what time of year it is. For example, there are typically fewer TV viewers during the summertime.
In 2021, the New England Patriots drew nearly 38.5 million viewers per game, the seventh-highest in the NFL. Last season, the Red Sox averaged anywhere from 3.6 to 4.2 million viewers per game. During the 2021-2022 season, the Bruins had an average of 3.4 million viewers. The metric is a little harder to figure out for the Celtics. They would come up last out of all these teams when their games are only available to the local market. But they leap past the Red Sox numbers when their games are nationally televised.
When the Celtics and Bruins have gone head-to-head this season, the Bruins have edged out the Celtics in total household impressions. However, the Celtics have held the edge in the men age 25-54 and adults age 25-54 demographics.
It’s important to note that football is king when it comes to TV viewership. With only 17 regular season games in the NFL, compared to the 80+ in hockey and basketball, not to mention the 160+ in baseball, the supply and demand figures will always lean towards the Patriots in Massachusetts.
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Social Media following
In today’s society, a reliable way to determine your popularity is to look at how many followers you have on social media. Professional teams didn’t have social media outreach 15 years ago. Nowadays, basically every team has Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat accounts, and an entire team to help run them and engage with fans.
Here are how Boston’s ‘Big 4’ teams rank according to their Twitter and Instagram followers:
- Boston Celtics: 10.8 million followers
- New England Patriots: 9.4 million followers
- Boston Red Sox: 3.3 million followers
- Boston Bruins: 3.1 million followers
These numbers are an indication of society and culture more than anything else. NBA players and fans are very active on social media. So it is not surprising to see the Celtics at the top.
All four of these franchises have a rich history and are decorated with championships. But in this modern era of sports, it is typically the players that put the butts in the seats. These are also the guys that will see a lot of prop bets placed on them.
Recently, the city of Boston was run by Tom Brady. The unmistakable face of sports for a generation. Brady helped bring six championships to the city of Boston. However, #12 is gone after taking his talents to Tampa Bay. Now the Patriots are searching for a new star. It’s too soon to say if that person is or isn’t Mac Jones. In the NFL, it is usually the quarterback that is the star of the team.
The Boston Celtics have no questions about who their stars are. Jayson Tatum is proving to be one of the best players in the NBA. Around the holiday season last year, Tatum was in the Top-10 in the league in jersey sales. The Celtics also have Jaylen Brown, another young superstar that would be the best player on nearly any other team.
There is a lot of change happening currently for the Boston Red Sox. The team is coming off a last-place finish in the AL East and shortstop Xander Bogaerts is heading to play for the San Diego Padres. The Sox will still have slugger Rafael Devers and pitcher Chris Sale. They could also still make a splash in free agency.
In hockey, the stars are the guys that put the puck in the net and the guys that stop the puck. The Boston Bruins have guys at both ends. Goalie Linus Ullmark leads the NHL this season in wins and save percentage. Meanwhile, David Pastrnak is tied for fifth in the league in goals. So far, they are both shining brightly for the Bruins.
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So which team will bring in the most bets?
The answer at the end of the day is simple. The New England Patriots will control the most betting handle once sports betting goes live in Massachusetts. This shouldn’t come as a surprise based on what we’ve seen in other markets.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, these are the five teams that drew the most handle in 2021:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Phoenix Suns
- Brooklyn Nets
- Green Bay Packers
Now, that’s only data from one of the top sportsbooks. However, you can see three NFL teams in the top 5. The Suns and Nets are likely the beneficiaries of some large individual bets. Because when you look at the top 5 teams in number of tickets placed in 2021, it is very NFL-heavy.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Green Bay Packers
- Buffalo Bills
- Los Angeles Dodgers
Obviously, bettors are going to put their money behind winning teams. Right now, the Celtics and the Bruins are leading the charge in that category. But with the number of people that love to place bets on basketball, I’d expect the Celtics to hold on to the second-place spot.
While baseball and hockey are popular sports in Boston, they do not draw the type of betting crowds that football and basketball do. With the Bruins looking to make a run at the Stanley Cup, it stands to reason that they will see a lot of bets early on. The question is, how long will it take for the Red Sox to become a contender again? If both teams are equal in terms of their ability to win, I’d say the Red Sox will see more betting handle than the Bruins.
So when Massachusetts becomes a mature betting market, expect most folks to put their money behind the Patriots. They will likely be followed by the Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins in that order. That could change if any of them make a deep postseason run and compete for a championship.