Parlay Bets Booming In Popularity Among Virginia Sports Gamblers

Written By Adam Hensley on May 20, 2024
Parlay bet written on tiles with graphs behind signify growth of Virginia parlay betting from 2021-2024

When Virginia residents open up their favorite sportsbooks, chances are an operator-created parlay will be staring back at them.

This parlay could be anything from a two-leg bet to one with three, four, or more different facets. Should bettors opt to create their own, that’s easier now than ever.

And that’s obvious when looking at the Virginia Lottery‘s numbers.

Every few months, the organization releases an update on the state’s gaming industry. Looking specifically at the Virginia sports betting data available, the popularity of parlays is startling, especially compared to where things were a few years back.

Here’s a closer look at those numbers and what they mean.

Parlay Popularity More Than Double That in 2021

In the first six months of 2021, 18.09% of all Virginia sports wagers came on some form of parlay. From January to June 2021, professional basketball was the most bet-on sport, taking 31.25% of wagers and sitting one spot above parlay betting.

That trend stayed the same the following year, from January to June 2022. Professional basketball made up 32.79% of all sports bets, with parlays coming in second at 20.09%.

In 2023, professional basketball’s popularity from January to May fell below 30%. Sitting at 22.86%, it ranked a little better than parlay betting’s 22.41%.

This year, however, is a much different story.

For the first time during the January through March span, parlays boasted the highest percentage of the state’s total wagers, commanding a whopping 36.83% of bets placed. That’s 18.74% more than the 2021 time frame.

Virginia’s Parlay Popularity Follows National Trend

What’s clear is that more Virginia bettors than ever are placing parlay bets, following the national trend.

In 2021, United States residents placed $57.8 billion on parlays. That number jumped to $93.7 billion in 2022. Legal Sports Report data from January through October 2023 shows that parlays equated to $89.9 billion in wagers.

Citizens JMP Securities, a financial brokerage services firm, released a statement last month with data from sports betting tool Juice Reel. The group found that over the past three years, the average parlay bet has gone from 4.2 legs to 5. Parlays with 10 or more legs account for 10% of the total parlay wagers this year. That number sat at 8% just two years ago.

“We believe Americans with a background in long-shot lottery odds are opting for longer-legged parlays, with a noticeable uptick in high-single-digit or 10-plus-leg parlays in recent years,” a study by Citizens JMP Securities and Juice Reel concluded.

Parlays Are a Great Way for Sportsbooks to Make Their Hold

In sports betting, an operator’s hold is the amount of money it keeps after a bet is settled.

And sportsbooks love their parlays.

It’s the main reason they’re plastered on the home page of nearly every sportsbook. Maintaining a favorable hold isn’t an easy task, but parlays are certainly one way operators can cushion the blow.

In 2021, sportsbook operators saw a 7.5% hold on parlay wagers. That number jumped to 8.1% the following year before clocking in at 9.5% through the first 10 months of 2023.

The operators are well aware of this success.

“We’ve seen no decline in demand as we’ve increased hold rates,” DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said. “The important thing is we’re not increasing it by making the odds any worse for customers. It’s just by pushing more parlay mix and things like that.”

Parlay Popularity Sparks a Reminder to Gamble Responsibly

As parlay popularity among Virginia residents increases, now is a good time to remind players to gamble responsibly.

More bettors are placing parlays with 10 or more legs than ever before. It’s incredibly enticing, watching your potential winnings grow exponentially with each leg added. But that’s exactly what operators like to see: the odds stacked against the customer.

As JMP’s statement indicates, a 10-leg parlay is essentially a lottery ticket. You could win big, but the chances of that are incredibly small. There’s a reason sportsbook operators advertise parlays. DraftKings’ CEO even said the company is “pushing” that wager type.

Problem gambling is serious, and free resources are available for Virginia residents, including the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling and the Virginia Lottery’s helpline: 1-888-532-3500. Help is also available from the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Adam Hensley Avatar
Written by
Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

View all posts by Adam Hensley