NFL Betting: UK International Series games, UK gambling law

It’s a match made in sportsbook heaven: A tv- and betting-centric gladiatorial game meeting cultures with profound love for sport and gambling. NFL betting in the UK is truly a natural, and the healthy business that sportsbooks do on the British Isles has led to NFL games played regularly on the other side of the Atlantic – not to mention an ever-growing fandom and rising paraphernalia sales…

WLAF, USFL and NFL football in the UK

As with all great sporting cultures, the British and thus much of its former lands of empire have held fast to the traditional (British-organized) sports: association football, cricket, rugby, darts, caber-tossing, etc. Satellite television and later online technology, however, has led to the development of some very massive “niche” markets indeed.

Actual high level(-ish) professional football in the UK is associated by those who remember the 1990s with the London Monarchs in various incarnations. The London franchise was the gem of the league in play and attendance when the 10-team World League of American Football debuted in 1991, going 9-1 while drawing nearly 40,500 per game.

A reported 61,108 were in attendance for World Bowl I to watch the Monarchs crush the Barcelona Dragons, 21-0. As the New York Times writeup noted, “The heroes were Stan Gelbaugh [who would retire with a résumé including stints with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and six NFL teams], who threw two touchdown passes, and Dan Crossman [who would play one more season before going on to coaching], who was named the game’s most valuable player after three interceptions, one of which he returned 20 yards for a touchdown.”

Unfortunately, this Monarchs never had a winning record again, going a weak 3-7 in 1992. After two seasons of non-existence, the Monarchs and the WLAF returned for 1995; the reestablished Monarchs proceeded to run up 4-6 records for the next three seasons. Not even the presence of much-beloved William “The Refrigerator” Perry in ‘96 helped. The league was reconstituted as NFL Europe for ‘98, and the London Monarchs became the England Monarchs.

The London Monarchs went 3-7, and then moved operations to Berlin. That was it for American football in the UK, right? Not by a long chalk…

Even before the WLAF, top-level games (of a sort) were played in England, typically at Wembley Stadium. In 1983, the Minnesota Vikings beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 24-10, in a preseason exhibition game that was loftily titled the “Global Cup.” The following year, the USFL staged what certainly will be the last-ever high-level *postseason* exhibition football match. A brief aside momentarily to sample in some of the original UPI reportage from 1984. This is pretty amazing.

“[Philadelphia Stars general manager Carl] Peterson said [promotions director John] Marshall went through the USFL league office, which polled teams to discover their interest in playing in London. The New Jersey Generals originally were set to be Tampa Bay’s opponent, but Marshall and Generals owner Donald Trump could not agree on a deal, he said.

“‘Very candidly, the Generals got involved in a lot of ‘legalese’ making it difficult for John Marshall to coordinate it with them,’ Peterson said.”

Imagine that.

Final score of the USFL contest at Wembley: Philadelphia Stars 24, Tampa Bay Bandits 21.

From 1986 to 1993, regular “American Bowl” preseason games were held in Wembley Stadium. The series itself, which had expanded to Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Canada and Australia, would run until 2005 without any play in the UK.

Finally in 2007 was NFL regular-season play scheduled in the UK (read: Wembley Stadium) and eventually elsewhere. Between one and three games were played at Wembley annually, while in ‘16 and ‘17, London’s Twickenham Stadium played host to Los Angeles Rams games.

Betting on NFL International Series games

In betting NFL International Series games, one must consider them as extreme versions of regular games. Any biological effects of time-zone shifting must be factored in to greater effect. And as with Monday Night Football games, the better-prepared coaching staffs will be able to get their teams more readily adapted to the changeover.

How important is pregame planning and experience for International Series games? Very. It’s instructive to consider recent history in this regard. Year 2017 featured five international game blowouts, but if we must apply short-term memory to betting in ‘18, let’s do so constructively: These five blowouts were due to recent experience in London (Jaguars 44, Ravens 7; Rams 33, Cardinals 0), general better preparation (Patriots 33, Raiders 8) or simple mismatches (Saints 20, Dolphins 0; Vikings 33, Browns 16).

Since 2014, favorites abroad are 11-4 ATS (9-4 in the UK, 2-0 in Mexico), while the Jaguars are 3-1 ATS and SU in that same span. This results in the incredible stat that International Series favorites against any team other than the Jacksonville Jaguars are on an 11-2 run, 9-2 in UK games.

In October 2018, the Jaguars return to Wembley to face the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are likely to be favorites, but if you gave NFLbets a chance to bet Jacksonville plus all the points they’ll get, we’d take it right now…

The U.K.: The world’s most liberal online sports betting law ... for now

Ironically, NFL betting in the UK is well more, likesay, legal than in the US and Canada. Prior to 2019, the UK has allowed online sports betting to be provided to UK citizens (and taxed) fully legally as long as said outlet is listed on the “White List.”

To appear on the White List, one must simply be approved as a legal entity to provide online sports betting in any territory or protectorate of the UK (e.g. the Isle of Man, Gibraltar), any European Union member nation, or any European Union member nation’s territory or protectorate (e.g. Curacao).

Sounds easy, dunnit? And it sure was … until enough 20th-century refugees voted yea on the “Brexit” vote in June 2016 so as to decouple the UK from the EU. By mid-2019, the break is expected to become final, and we can only guess what will become of gambling law in the UK then…