‘The Swift Effect is Real’: Legal Sportsbooks Lifted by the Taylor-Travis Tide

A business whose clientele is traditionally young and male is getting a bump from someone who is more broadly popular, and sports betting sites are taking full advantage. 

Feb 9, 2024 • 14:39 ET • 5 min read
Taylor Swift
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Every year, the Super Bowl is arguably the biggest single sporting event in both Canada and the United States. Football is uber-popular, naturally, but people also love the pageantry and spectacle of the Big Game, which, for some, will be the only NFL game they watch all year. 

So the Super Bowl is huge. Somehow, though, the simple presence  — nay, the mere association — of Taylor Swift with this year’s Super Bowl has turned the Big Game into something that feels even bigger. 

"Listen, there is no way I could have scripted that one, let's put it that way," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday. "Having the Taylor Swift effect is also a positive, both Travis [Kelce] and Taylor are wonderful young people."

Taylor Swift has become something like a tide that lifts all football-related boats: the NFL, the Kelce family, advertisers, broadcasters. And, yes, she is also giving the legal sports betting industry a boost. 

Indeed, a business whose clientele is traditionally young and male is getting a bump from someone who is more broadly popular, and sports betting sites are taking full advantage. 

“There's no doubt the Swift effect is real,” FanDuel Group CEO Amy Howe said on television on Friday.

Howe told CNBC’s Contessa Brewer that since Swift started showing up on NFL Sundays, the volume of bets on Kelce, her football-playing beau, has “literally doubled." 

The FanDuel CEO added that the Kansas City Chiefs tight end is the most popular play among customers to score the first touchdown of this year's Big Game and to be named its MVP. 

Howe also told CNBC viewers that FanDuel is seeing a lot of women signing up to wager, which is due in at least a small part to the Taylor-Travis romance. 

“The great thing about the Super Bowl is we have millions of new recreational users and a lot of those are women,” Howe said. “Almost 35% of our activations are women. And there's no doubt that this effect has helped.”

She ain't played nobody, Paul

FanDuel isn’t the only online sportsbook that may be getting a bump from the Swelce phenomenon, although exactly how bookmakers can harness the momentum depends on where their bettors are located. 

As it turns out, U.S. gaming regulators remain skeptical about true love — or, more accurately, about the integrity of offering certain non-sports-related wagering markets.

That means U.S.-regulated sports betting sites are not going to take bets on, say, whether Taylor crashes the halftime show or whether Kelce proposes to her post-game. It’s just not typically done.

“The general rule of thumb in the U.S. for creating prop bets is that they need to be determined by action on the field and the result shown in the box score," BetMGM senior trader Tristan Davis recently told USA TODAY. "This makes it difficult to offer prop bets on Taylor Swift since she doesn’t play the game.”

DK and Karma vibe like that

With actual wagering off-limits, operators have to get creative. Notably, there are plenty of Kelce props. In addition, instead of taking action on Swift, U.S. bookmakers are branding certain betting markets and promotions using her songs. 

DraftKings, for example, is offering +2000 odds for a "Love Story" parlay: Chiefs win, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Kelce combine for all of Kansas City's touchdowns. For the haters, DraftKings is also offering +3000 odds on a "Karma" parlay: zero receptions for Kelce and the San Francisco 49ers to win. 

How effective Swift-themed promotions are remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the Super Bowl is a massive opening for sportsbook operators to sign up new bettors, and Swift is now a part of that effort.

"Regardless of the immediate financial outcome for the operators, the biggest Super Bowl opportunity remains around customer acquisition," analysts from investment banking firm Jefferies wrote in a note to clients on Friday.

It's me, hi, I'm the proposition, it's me

But the ban on fun (I’m kidding, please don’t get mad) does not extend north of the 49th parallel. Indeed, in Canada, Taylor Swift prop bets are being widely offered in the run-up to the Super Bowl, such as FanDuel hanging odds of +920 for Travis Kelce to propose to her on the field after the game.

In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, BetMGM is giving users the option to wager on whether the Super Bowl’s MVP will mention Taylor Swift in their acceptance speech. As of Wednesday morning, 93% of bets were on "yes," BetMGM said.

“It has attracted attention from bettors but the spread, total, and moneyline are the most bet markets by far,” BetMGM’s John Ewing told Covers in an email. “The coin toss, Gatorade Bath, and player props such as [San Francisco quarterback] Brock Purdy over rushing yards have all received more bets.”

The trend is similar at other sportsbooks: yes, the Swift props are good and fun, but they aren’t the main event. They aren’t even more popular than classic Super Bowl props such as the outcome of the coin toss or what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach. 

Still, someone who might not usually wager on the Super Bowl could have a flutter on something Swift-related.

“Currently, Taylor Swift markets rank fourth among novelties, following Gatorade color, coin toss, and the length of the national anthem,” the FanDuel Canada trading team told Covers in an email. “Overall, core markets like moneyline and spread remain the top choices for most bettors. While novelty markets don’t drive the bulk of wagering, they certainly contribute to the buzz and engagement surrounding the event – and provide a unique opportunity for non-sports fans to engage.” 

It’s also worth noting that we are still days away from when many, or even most, people will place their wagers on the Super Bowl, which is Super Bowl Sunday itself. 

The government-owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. told Covers that it expects more and more interest in its Taylor Swift props the closer the Big Game gets. However, OLG also said that most action on its novelty markets happens later on Saturday or the morning of the Super Bowl.

OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti added that novelty bets accounted for almost 10% of all Super Bowl bets placed via the company's PROLINE sportsbook.

“So these are a nice addition to our portfolio of offerings for the Big Game, which offer an extra layer of excitement and enjoyment for football and non-football fans,” Bitonti said in an email.

Another Ontario-regulated sportsbook, PowerPlay, said it expects player props “will see considerably more handle” than the Swift selection.

“I would expect us to build up some liabilities on her other half [Kelce], who is sure to be popular in the TD and Receiving Yards markets,” said PowerPlay’s sportsbook product manager, Bill O’Brien. “And this could change between now and Sunday, but it looks like the book is going to be cheering on the 49ers (and hopefully keeping Mahomes and Kelce quiet while getting the win).”

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