How sports betting is changing sport

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The Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 to overturn the federal ban on sports betting ushered in a new era for an industry that had previously been confined to Nevada. Currently, about half of the states in the United States have allowed sports betting, with more on the way.

Major league sports are benefiting greatly from the new sector – anecdotal evidence and early indications from surveys are that betting fans will watch more sports and are more prone to seek out other forms of sports entertainment.

There is evidence that many fans are watching more NFL and NBA programming now that they can bet on the outcome. New bettors can benefit from a variety of welcome offers, as can use the sportsbetting guides to help them with placing their wagers. Even casual sports watchers will notice the practically ubiquitous sportsbook promotions, which feature celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

Financial boost

One of the main motivating factors for states that have legalized sports betting was the opportunity to access new revenue streams.

Tapping a resource of potentially millions of dollars a year in tax revenue was too good an opportunity for most states to overlook, and there’s since been a domino effect as each state rushes to create their own sports betting sector to match competition from neighboring areas. 

And the same effect has been seen within the major US sports sectors, with both franchises and organizations rushing to sign up with betting companies, hoping to take advantage of the millions of dollars of sponsorship that the gambling sector is prepared to stump up.

The MLB has a deal with one betting company which offers a dedicated betting channel to baseball fans, while a host of teams – including the New York Jets, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Cowboys – have signed up with betting companies. 

In some cases, this has amounted to little more than advertising around the stadium and on merchandise, but there are also examples of franchises partnering with gambling companies to set up retail sports betting areas within their stadiums. 

The result is that sports fans are increasingly likely to be faced with sports betting advertising whenever they go to the game; the same effect has been noticed in sports television broadcasting.

Broadcasting is adapting

At one time, betting was a taboo subject on American sports broadcasts, but those days seem like a world away now. 

Since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA nearly four years ago, broadcasters have had significantly more freedom to discuss gambling. 

As clubs, leagues and media firms form partnerships with regulated bookmakers, they are increasingly being expected to dive headfirst into discussion of spreads, moneylines, futures and prop bets.

In the past, contracts between rights holders and the leagues they cover usually prohibited any mention of gambling, but such clauses are now rare and are likely to become part of history. While not all broadcasters are comfortable with talking about betting, few are able to avoid it entirely.

The fact is that just as professional sports leagues are drawing much needed additional revenue from linking up with betting companies, so too are the sports media outlets, as they scramble to associate themselves with the biggest names in US sports betting, increasingly integrating sports coverage and sports betting. 

Demand for data

One interesting development of the sports betting boom is that there is a higher demand for accurate and insightful sports data. While many sportsbooks do provide some information, bettors are naturally more inclined to seek their data elsewhere.

The result has been a scramble for broadcasters and media outlets to offer the most in-depth and accurate statistics. 

While this has also led to some wrangling over the ownership and value of the official statistics produced by leagues, it has also helped to make US sports ever more data-heavy. 

The demand for easily accessible and meaningful stats has merged with the data analytics industry within the sporting world, and the result is that US sport is now presented amid a sea of data, charts and analytical angles, much of it explicitly aimed at the sports betting fan. 

Integrity concerns

One of the main reasons for the long-term ban on sports betting in the US was the concern that it might have an effect on the integrity of the sports themselves. This concern has not entirely gone away, and lies behind some of the rules that states have implemented around college sports, as younger and technically amateur college athletes are deemed to be at greater risk of exploitation than older professionals. 

As a result, one less high-profile development is the increasing cooperation between betting companies and the pro leagues when it comes to identifying suspicious betting patterns. 

In Europe, this cooperation is considered vital in the fight against match-fixing and organized crime involvement in illegal betting, and is likely to be an increasingly important part of the US sports scene. 

Strict rules around athletes betting on sports are another reflection of the unease about the potential impact of gambling on the integrity of sports, although it is worth noting that player’s gambling is nothing new and has continued throughout the history of US sports. 

A greater concern – in the long term at least – could be the impact of excessive gambling advertising on rates of gambling addiction among sports fans – something that is top of the agenda in Europe. 

It is likely that once the current sports gambling boom dies down, there could be some tightening of the rules around gambling advertising, and heavier demands on betting companies to do more to protect consumers.

Strict rules around athletes betting on sports are another reflection of the unease about the potential impact of gambling on the integrity of sports, although it is worth noting that players’ gambling is nothing new and has continued throughout the history of US sports. 

A greater concern, in the long term, could be the impact of excessive gambling advertising on rates of gambling addiction among sports fans – something that is top of the agenda in Europe. 

It is likely that once the current sports gambling boom dies down, there could be some tightening of the rules around gambling advertising, and increasing demands on betting companies to do more to protect consumers.

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