Rugby Leagues’ Role as “Sportsbook Fodder” in the US Could Grow International Fanbase - Ruck

Rugby Leagues’ Role as “Sportsbook Fodder” in the US Could Grow International Fanbase

While we wouldn’t go as far as Peter V’Landys of ‘league’ and call Rugby wagering content, the man did have a point when he described the Australian Rugby League as such during an interview earlier this year.

Out of context, it sounds horrible, and the description caused outrage from anti-gambling advocates. The discussion followed a report from NRL executives stating they wanted to increase the league’s exposure to the expanding US betting market. Their goal is to get the city of Las Vegas to host a pair of games in the opening rounds of the rugby season. As of writing, there is an agreement to have a doubleheader in Las Vegas to kick off the 2024 season, but no further information is available.

Further background to the statement from V’Landys is that essentially all professional sports in and outside the United States are fodder for US sportsbooks, making it possible for US sports fans to wager online. This is true for UK sportsbooks as well, or sports betting in any other region. The reason why it makes sense for leagues to feature in other countries is because of differences in time zones of gameplay. For example, the NRL is played during primetime of the Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) zone, which is different from Eastern Standard Time (EST)—the most prevalent time zone in the US. This means that NRL games can be featured in domestic sportsbooks outside US primetime, giving US punters more games to wager on.

Additionally, suppose matches are hosted in Las Vegas. In that case, it makes it likelier that local broadcasting channels like ESPN or CBS can show the game on the TV and official streaming outlets. While the statement from V’Landys is unfortunate, the plan does make sense, as increased exposure in the US would benefit the NRL, bringing revenue to the league and rugby clubs.

From a UK perspective, there have been similar talks about hosting UK Rugby League games in the United States. There are also hopes that the European Rugby Champions Cup can turn into a global league that features teams from multiple regions, where all the best teams in the world play each other in an international calendar, which would open up the possibility of not just US exposure but greater global exposure of national leagues which can help propel the sport to new heights.

For rugby to grow in the largest market of the western hemisphere, it needs some help from the rest of the world. The 2023 Rugby World Cup was the first time ever that no North American team qualified, and it won’t be until another eight years that a North American country hosts the World Cup, as it’s scheduled to take place in the US tentatively from September to October 2031. Until then, it would benefit the sport if more leagues became fodder for sportsbooks in the United States.