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Everyone Wants In On Messi Betting — and Sportsbooks Are Adjusting

  • Messi is the most-bet soccer player by handle and total bets at DraftKings since his debut.
  • At BetMGM, Inter Miami has seen five times as much action since Messi joined the team.
Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half at Subaru Park.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Lionel Messi is already profoundly affecting U.S. soccer, from the ticket marketplace and stadium construction, to merchandise sales and the model of competition itself.

His Inter Miami arrival is also transforming the ever-expanding sports betting industry — and everyone has wanted in on the action.

“There’s this really great opportunity for books to use a very notable world star in the U.S. as a carrot to get people to bet more,” Chalk + Dog senior director of partnerships and growth Adam Rosenberg tells Front Office Sports.

According to prop bet data provided to FOS, Messi is the most-bet soccer player by handle and total bets across all leagues and tournaments at DraftKings since his July 21 debut. Inter Miami, meanwhile, is the second-most-bet soccer team by handle and volume at DraftKings behind the United States women’s national team.

“The nine most-bet games ever on Miami are the nine games Messi has played in,” DraftKings director of race and sports operations Johnny Avello told FOS prior to Inter Miami’s 0-0 draw with Nashville SC on Wednesday. “There were a total of 80 Leagues Cup games and Miami played in seven of them.

“In those seven games, a little over 50% of the entire tournament handle was generated.”

At Caesars, 90% of all goalscorer wagers for Inter Miami matches have been placed on Messi. At BetMGM, prop bets on Messi to score any time, to score the first goal, and to score two-plus goals have been the most popular across all Inter Miami games, while Inter Miami has seen five times as much action since Messi joined the team.

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi holds two trophies during the trophy ceremony for the Leagues Cup Championship match at GEODIS Park in Nashville.

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Before Wednesday’s scoreless draw, the books were likely taking a bath from the day-to-day bets: Miami won six out of nine matches in regulation, and Messi scored in all but one.

On June 6, Inter Miami was the worst team in MLS as +17500 underdogs to win the Cup, per Sports Betting Dime. After a win and a draw in its first two league games with the phenom, Miami holds only a 1% chance to make the MLS Cup Playoffs, per Playoff Status.

Yet as of Thursday, Miami holds +700 odds to win it all on DraftKings — third-shortest in the league. While the sportsbooks would not disclose their liability on Inter Miami championship futures, the astounding line movement implies that many bettors are riding Messi Mania; Rosenberg suggests that more realistic odds would be closer to +3000 or +3500.

Assuming Miami doesn’t go on a miracle run, the sportsbooks would likely make a killing on those futures — but the real value for them is the “earned marketing push” on the day-to-day bets in what would typically be a slow time of year.

“It literally couldn’t have been timed better because August is when football starts to pick up and he won Leagues Cup in July,” says Rosenberg. “You probably got a lot of soccer fans that may not have been betting to bet, to win, and now they’re in long term.”

Messi, Inter Miami, and their backers are riding high off their wins for now — but as Wednesday showed, the book eventually wins in the end.

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