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US Gambling Sites / Betting Handle – Betting Handle in Sports Betting Explained

Betting Handle – Betting Handle in Sports Betting Explained

Publish Date: 16/05/2024
Fact checked by: Josh Schwartz

If you are new to sports betting, the terms “handle” and “revenue” may sound foreign to you, but they are a crucial concept and play a fundamental role in sports betting.

The term “handle” in online sports betting is the total amount of money all bettors have wagered. It can be used generally or more specifically about one market or game.

The revenue, meanwhile, is different from the handle, it is determined after bets are settled, winners get their money and losers lose their money. Read on as we dive deeper into the two concepts…

How Do I Use the Handle in Sports Betting?

Very often sportsbooks will release a handle breakdown on a specific game for the public to view. It will show how much of the handle via a percentage, is for their team.

Have a look at this hypothetical example:

Percentage of Handle Percentage of Bets
Vultures 45% 55%
Eagles 55% 40%

As you can see, the Eagles had a lot fewer bets than the Vultures, but the handle for the Eagles was still much higher than that of the Vultures. This will signify “sharp money”, also known as the smart money.

Although, the Vultures got a lot more bets, the Eagles had more experienced bettors betting on them, and they generally make larger wagers compared to less experienced bettors and the public.

False Handles

Sometimes you might find a situation where the total handle on one side will be lower, but the amount of money per bet will be a lot higher.

For example:

Percentage of Handle Percentage of Bets
Vultures 60% 75%
Eagles 40% 25%

This is referred to as a “false handle”. The handle is not an indication of where the sharp money is actually placed.

If you look in the table above, the handle is not showing us where the sharp bets are actually going, because the money per wager on the Eagles is a lot higher, suggesting it is the team with sharper bets and not the Vultures who have a higher percentage of the handle, but many more smaller bets.

Does Knowing the Betting Handle Help Bettors?

Simply answered, yes it can help. However, the handle is only one piece of the betting puzzle. The handle can help sports bettors in that people who generally make higher wagers are sharper bettors. So, if there is more money wagered on one side, it could indicate that there is an edge for betting on that side.

Bettors need to monitor the total bets along with the betting handle when monitoring data at an online sportsbook. If a side has a smaller handle, but larger wagers or a higher average wager, it could mean that this side is attracting the sharp money and more professional bettors. This could give you an indication to where most preferences lie.

As a sports bettor, you also need to consider the odds. They could be changing. So as we said, the handle, is a piece of the puzzle to determining where you should bet and should not solely be relied on.

Is There a Difference Between the Handle and the Hold?

In sports betting the term “hold” is a percentage of money a site or bookmaker keeps hold of after settling all bets on a particular market. It can also be known as the “vig”. It is the sportsbook’s margin of profit on a particular market.

Sportsbooks try to balance the handle in sports betting. They make a profit by charging a “fee” for every bet. The handle, as we have mentioned, is the total amount of money that has been wagered by all bettors.

What is Betting Revenue?

Revenue is sports betting is defined as the total amount of money the sportsbook retains from the total handle after bets are settled and winnings have been paid out.

As we mentioned above, sportsbooks make a profit off all bets thanks to the hold. The sportsbooks need to make sure they maintain the edge that the hold creates. Balancing the handle on the bets is essential to keep their revenue stable.

How Does the Sportsbook Earn Revenue?

An online sportsbook makes money by accepting bets from bettors betting on game or events. For example, the NFL, MBA and NHL. On each of the bets, the sportsbook receives a hold. The aim is then to have to payout less in overall winnings than the total amount of handle and hold that they received.

The handle (including the hold) – the payouts = the revenue

How Much Revenue Does a Sportsbook Generate?

Speaking in general terms, a sportsbook will hold just less than 5% of handle. As an example, in 2022 in the US, sportsbooks brought in a revenue of $4.7 billion in total. The revenue will vary from one sportsbook to the next based on many factors. We will discuss these factors further down the page.

Sports betting revenue in the US has climbed with each passing year over the last decade. This action is said to continue as more states have legalized sports betting.

The Difference Between Betting Handle and Revenue at a Sportsbook

The sportsbooks revenue is the profit that it makes after paying out all winnings once bets have been settled. The handle is the amount of bets a sportsbook takes for a specific event or game. The handle does not necessarily represent the future revenue for the site.

However, if a site can balance their action consistently, then more handle can eventually lead to more revenue generated. If a sportsbook has a higher handle, it generally means more bets are being placed. With more bets, there is more vig/hold charged and in the end more revenue is gained.

Sports Betting Revenue Across the States to Date

The table below shows year-by-year statistics of the handle, hold and revenue in legal sports betting states in the US over the last five years.

Year Handle Gross Revenue Hold (average %)
2023 $121,064,466,469.01 $11,048,223,917.31 9.1%
2022 $93,726,726,923.21 $7,559,425,190.89 8.10%
2021 $57,525,518,127.20 $4,341,696,962.52 7.50%
2020 $21,476,520,882.99 $1,546,743,084.58 7.20%
2019 $13,073,426,594.11 $920,626,754.70 7.0%

Factors Affecting Sports Betting Revenue

There are many factors that will influence and affecting the sports betting revenue of a sportsbook on a monthly basis. Here are a few of the most common factors:

Event Popularity

One of the most crucial factors affecting revenue is the popularity of the current sporting events. The more popular a sport or event is, the more bets it will get and therefore the sportsbooks will get more revenue.

Odds and Lines

The betting odds and lines that a sportsbook offers are another significant factor that affects revenue. If there are no favorable lines, it is less likely that bettors will place bets and therefore revenue will be a lot lower. However, if a sportsbook offers competitive odds and prices, there is going to be more people betting, and therefore, better revenue.

There should be a range of bets available such as futures, spreads and same game parlays.

Live Streaming

Watching a sports game or event via live streaming adds to the whole betting experience and will play an impact on the revenue. All the different bets you can make while the game is being streamed live, watching the action take place in front of your eyes and then being able to adjust your bets and make more accordingly.

This leads to more bets being made and more revenue. A sportsbook which offers live streaming will definitely generate more revenue compared to one that doesn’t.

Regulatory Factors

the regulatory environment in which a sportsbook finds itself in can also affect the revenue it generates. In markets where sports betting is heavily regulated or restricted, will limit the number of people placing bets, where they can place bets, how they can bet etc.

In markets where sports betting isn’t restricted, you will have more people betting and more revenue generated.

Sportsbook Bonuses and Promotions

the bonuses are promotions a sportsbook offers are generally enticing offers and a way to draw bettors in.

They draw new members to the site and keep existing members coming back for more. The bonuses offered can increase the number of bets placed at a sportsbook and generate more revenue.

Online vs Offline Sports Betting Revenue

An offline sportsbook is a bricks-and-mortar venue bettors visit to do their sports betting in person. Online sports betting is when you are betting via a website or mobile app. Online sportsbooks are convenient, but retail sports betting sites have an advantage due to their physical presence.

We have done a comparison between the two, and the online benefits outweigh the negatives. Here are some pros and cons of the two options.

Online Sportsbook Retail Sportsbook
Remote registration – you can register from wherever you are Much higher costs to operate. This is due to staff and real estate
You can place your bets from your mobile device Customers need to travel to a physical destination. Not always convenient
Online sportsbooks offer many lucrative bonuses and promotions Odds are not as great compared to online betting sites
You can get help 24 hours a day via the customer support channels More costs involved for the customer – fuel etc needs to be incorporated
Have the options of many online banking methods
Live streaming to watch the game unfold and place your bets
Do not need to worry about any external or environmental factors such as the weather

Online legal sports betting is said to generate a much higher revenue compared to retail betting sites. Many factors play a role in this, such as convenience, remote registration and more betting options available.

Which Events Have the Biggest Handle Betting?

Let’s take a look at a few events that have generated huge handle in sports betting.

  • The FIFA World Cup Soccer – estimated to have a handle of $2 million per match
  • March Madness – there was an estimated amount of $15.5 billion bet on March Madness 2023
  • The Super Bowl – had an estimated $16 billion bet on the Super Bowl in 2023
  • UEFA Champions League – generates a betting handle of over $13 billion every year

Conclusion

After reading this full guide you should now have a better understanding of betting handle and revenue at online sportsbooks. You can use this information to your advantage when you are placing your respective bets at various US sportsbooks.

Always remember to do your research before you dive straight in, a little extra time taken to find the right sportsbook and bets can save you a lot of money in the end.

FAQ

What is a sports betting handle?

The betting handle is the total amount of money that has been wagered by all bettors for a specific game or event.

What is betting revenue?

The revenue is the profit a sportsbook makes after all bets have been settled and the winnings are paid out.

Does knowing the betting handle help me as a sports bettor?

It can be a small part of the bigger puzzle. It can give you an indication of where the betting preference is lying. However, there are many other factors you need to take into account as well.

What is the difference between the betting handle and the hold?

The “hold” is a percentage of money a sportsbook keeps after bets have been settled on a particular market. It can also be known as the “vig”. It is the sportsbooks margin of profit on a particular market. Whereas the handle is the total money that has been wagered by all bettors.

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