Punch Drunk Wonderland

Why NFL Fantasy Football is Fast Becoming a Global Phenomenon

Anyone paying even a modicum of attention to the online sports betting industry as of late can hardly have escaped the news that impending state legislation threatens to harm -if not completely ban- a game we’ve all come to know and love.

Instigated by talk of insider-trading, the laws currently being proposed by at least 30 US states have perhaps been a long time coming when you consider America’s increasing fascination with fantasy sports betting.

A $3 Billion Industry

With NFL fantasy football leading the charge as the most popular form of gambling in the United States, the industry has largely escaped the wrath of congress thanks to its status as a game of skill – a status granting the industry exemption from the legal implications of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which essentially placed a blanket ban on gambling online across the country.

By making full use of this exemption, the industry has since blossomed into one now set to be worth over $3 billion. So it’s perhaps not a great surprise that the government would eventually sit up and take note.

Not that they’re alone. Across the pond in Europe, fantasy sports is quickly catching up to American levels of popularity, followed closely by countries across Asia and Australasia. Yet rather than seeking to restrict the game, it seems our International cousins are embracing it. Overseas, much as in the United States, fantasy sports leagues based on the NFL are proving to the most popular, though again, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to those paying attention.

The NFL Goes International

Over in the UK, where Premier League soccer still rules the sports betting market, fans have been quick to embrace NFL, with the brand’s International Series games attracting sellout crowds to London’s famous Wembley Arena since 2007.

nfl-wembleyIn 2015, the NFL further expanded their presence in the country, adding to the now somewhat traditional Wembley fixture in the first weekend of October with additional regular season matches At Twickenham Stadium, current home of the English national rugby union team in South West London.

Further evidence of the sport’s’ growth in Europe can be seen in the gambling industry itself, with NFL betting at William Hill sportbooker proving to be one of that particular bookmaker’s most popular markets.

With NFL gambling proving a hit with fans, it was probably only a matter of time before fans of the sport in the UK followed their US brethren into the fantasy football arena, and today some of America’s most well-known fantasy sites are reporting unprecedented growth not only in the United Kingdom, but right across Western Europe and further afield.

Increasing Popularity

In places like China, Australia, and New Zealand, NFL fantasy football is too gaining traction, not quite at the same kind of rate as in the United Kingdom, but certainly reaching levels of popularity made all the more impressive when you consider that fantasy football in these countries hasn’t had the benefit of a real world NFL International Series to spearhead its growth.

Speaking of which, if you were going to take a bet on the next big country to be swept up the global phenomenon of fantasy football, look no further than our neighbours in Mexico.

Viva La Mexico

Later in 2016, the country will get its first taste of live NFL football since 2005’s one-off Fútbol Americano (Back then, the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers by 31 points to 14. This time around, Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca stadium will serve as an adopted home ground for the Houston Texans, who play host to the Oakland Raiders on November 21st.

Providing the event turns out to be as successful as the NFL are hoping (2005’s game -with 103,467 spectators- was the brand’s highest attended in game at the time), Mexico City will host further International Series games in 2017 and 2018, bringing with it an increase in popularity that will surely only serve to further help Mexico become the next country to be gripped by fantasy football fever.

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