Gambling has taken over American sports, under the auspices of the law. Viewers bet all the time, even during the game, and on everything (will the delivery succeed? How many offenses will there be? And what will be the duration of the anthem?). The victories are already less interesting, the teams too – the focus shifts to the statistics of specific players, and sports commentators are forced to interpret lines of bets instead of players’ moves. When big money covers everything, what’s left of the sport?
The announcer sounded particularly upset. This football game has actually been decided – the champion Tampa Bay led the Philadelphia Eagles by 14 points. But Philadelphia’s last move gave it a touchdown that narrowed the gap to 8 points, after which the players chose to go for a two-point conversion instead of kicking for another point. There is no real difference between a 7-point loss and a 6-point loss, but when Philadelphia narrowed the gap to 6, the announcer was excited. For the win, the teams and their fans this moment did not change anything, but it was significant for the spectators who bet on the difference; For them, that point was worth the money. And the announcer knew it. If in the past a broadcast of such a game was “dead” in the last minutes, when the winner was already known, now the drama was great.
These are all great dramas in the current era of American sports, since gambling became legal. Every point matters. Not to the teams or to the rest of the league, but to the countless gamblers, who put money right during the game. And they bet not just on who will be the winner or by what difference. They bet on the total points and types of moves; On the performance of the quarterback, batsman or basketball player, in general and in any specific move; On the number of offenses to be whistled; And also on really strange issues, unrelated to sports, for example, how long the anthem will last.
This endless game, where people try to guess every aspect of the game shakes up a variety of sports. The broadcasts are changing, full of gambling interpretations and commentators who gamble, and the screen is flooded with statistics that pertain to them. The conduct of the leagues looks different. And most importantly – the connection of the audience to every game, to every moment in the game, every move and every point, no longer passes only through the eye, the head and the heart. It goes through the pocket. And when Americans are connected to something through their pockets, emotions skyrocket.
The fantasy paved the way, and now you can bet on anything
To understand the intensity of change, one has to go back. Gambling has been a part of American DNA since its inception . even their War of Independence was funded in part by lotteries. The White Sox sold the championship series to gamblers, but since the 1980s American lawmakers have fought the phenomenon resolutely, and in 1992 a law was passed banning sports betting, which removed them from most states (except Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana). Instead of illegal gambling in prostitute systems, we have moved into an era of state-controlled gambling, each according to its own law governing their operation, regulation and taxation (which, however, was the main motivation for allowing gambling). California and New York more In approval processes, but 30 countries have already addressed the issue, set the standards and selected the betting operators.These, by the way, benefit mainly from the small commission (only a few percent) that is paid on each bet. And a lot.
The American change came to a legal change mature, under the auspices of the cultural tradition and mainly thanks to the Daily Fantasy. Fantasy games are based on extensive statistics and allow betting on a variety of aspects in various sports. They were invented as early as the 1980s, by Dan Okrent, who simply built with his friends “virtual” teams of baseball players from different clubs, and each member scored points for his invented team based on the achievements of its players. Baseball geeks, the ones who already dug into the results of all the games and all the player statistics, devoted themselves to the game. Then came the Internet, which can not only track numbers in real time but also play easily, and the fantasy has swept into other industries, most notably football, and sports cultures around the world (including fans of the English Premier League and the Israeli Premier League).
The directors of the leagues and broadcast networks were happy about the growing interest of the viewers and cooperated with the growth of the fantasy, but in the first stage it was not a significant economic matter, and it was not really about money, maximum interventions between members. Then, in 2010, two companies, DraftKing and FanDuel, offered a non-seasonal, but daily, fantasy league that runs for a fee. It did three things. First, the fantasy players were released from the need to commit to an entire season, to meticulous follow-up of months, and could play a little today, maybe not tomorrow, again another week, whenever they wanted. The world opens up to casual actors. Second, the drama also became everyday. Every day you pick your players, follow the results, get excited, get disappointed. Third, it basically established the conduct of gambling.
The success was dizzying, turning these two companies into giants worth billions of dollars just from fantasy, and they paved the way for the return of legal sports betting (and became betting agencies themselves). “In fantasy, people suddenly started betting on a daily basis,” says Dr. Yoav Dubinsky, a sports management lecturer at the University of Oregon School of Business. They were legal, so the sports networks had no problem broadcasting their commercials, the commentators had no problem referring to the various bets, and that brought the bets back to the mainstream. What’s more, for young people today, Generation Z, fantasy is simply a way of life.”
The blossoming of fantasy has changed Americans’ approach to sports betting: in 2010 most (67%) opposed allowing such gambling, in 2014 most (55%) were already in favor, according to polls that examined the issue. This change, along with the states’ desire to tax taxes on gambling profits, sent New Jersey to petition against the ban, leading to the repeal of the law.
Since then, Americans have been betting on almost everything. In football, for example, you can bet on the winner, on the number of points of each team, how many touchdowns each quarterback will deliver, how many ball losses there will be in the game and more and more. In the Super Bowl there are about a hundred possible bets, including which team will win the coin toss at the beginning of the game, what the performers will wear in the half and what will be the color of the liquid that will be poured on the winning coach at the end of the game. And if you can bet on everything, why not? No wonder about half of Americans gamble on the Super Bowl.
When billions of dollars roll in, everyone joins the game
This means, of course, a lot of money flowing into the business. In the first quarter of the year, the agencies’ revenue from sports betting was $ 11 billion, in the next quarter it climbed to $ 13.6 billion, and in the third quarter it had already reached $ 14 billion. The trend is clear, and this year it is estimated that it will end with revenues of more than 44 billion, with the average bet being more than 100 dollars a week per person (but occasionally these stories are published, for betting $ 15 on golf teams and winning 1.35 million, and also On higher bets or higher winnings). In New Jersey, gamblers invested more than $ 1 billion last October. In the United States as a whole, the potential market is estimated at 100 to 240 billion a year.
This money flows not only to the gambling agencies, and not only to hotels that specialize in gambling (those in Las Vegas operate fancy halls dedicated to sports betting), but also to the broadcast networks, which enjoy countless gambling agency advertisements and growing ratings of all casual gamblers. The coverage of the sport varies accordingly. “In early 2018, when our network started broadcasting, we had four hours a day of live content. Today we broadcast 21 hours of live content a day,” says Dave Tully, a commentator for VSIN (Vegas Stats and Information Network), a network that broadcasts online gambling-related content. In March by the fantasy company Draft King for about $ 100 million). “My column is published not only on the network’s website but also in the New York Post and the Los Angeles Times. Local and other networks are syndicating our broadcasts. There’s a huge thirst for it. “There were only allusions or laundered terms. Even when they started talking about the line for a game in the studios it was forbidden to display the team logo or use its nickname, use only the city name.
Much more than visible. NBC, for example, last year signed a $ 500 million five-year partnership with PointsBet, in which the giant network will receive a stake in the betting company, which in turn will have a prominent presence on NBC’s sports broadcasts and provide it with the statistics and data that will accompany the broadcasts. . Not only does the media want to profit from gambling, the NBA itself and a host of teams in it have signed agreements with a variety of gambling agencies, which are based primarily on the agencies’ advertising in the halls. It also happens in baseball; The Chicago Cubs, for example, have signed a $ 100 million deal with Draft King.
Teams and leagues are interested in these partnerships for the same reason that broadcast networks are interested in them: they bring in not only money, but also an audience. “Leagues have begun to understand how sports betting affects viewing and fans,” Tully explains. “Suddenly fans have to watch the game to the end, because the significant thing is not only who will win but also what result and if a certain player reached the number of points you bet on. Suddenly a meaningless perception of the ball at the end of a football game becomes critical for you. Now it is much more convenient, and you can also gamble during the game.”
Economically invested, emotionally involved, dive into statistics
The biggest change that gambling brings about is in the audience’s connection to sports. It also occurs because of the possibility of small, daily bets, on what you want, and also thanks to the same possibility to gamble while watching. It allows the viewer to hedge risks and correct an early bet (you bet on one team, it plays poorly, you can bet on the other and still win, or at least reduce the loss), and if you were not interested in advance, Live Betting allows you to get on the cart even if You fell on the game by chance, after the opening whistle. You can bet on the result, on player statistics, on specific moves – will the next one be a delivery or a run? Will the feature throw a fast or rotating ball? Micro Betting has no limit. That’s why live betting now accounts for an estimated 60% -70% of the industry.
The bets are often made on the sites that broadcast the games. Convenient for gamblers, profitable for sites. “Instead of watching the game on a regular channel, you can watch it online and gamble at the same time, while the site also gives you tips as you go and you see the lines updated” (see glossary), says Moshe Davidovich, VP of Online Gaming (and an avid fantasy player) “And it’s a 24/7 business. At 10 in the morning, there is no sport on TV, but in Australia football is played now, so why not broadcast it to you live, and you can throw in some $ 10 inside? “.
At the same time, alongside professional sports commentators, gambling commentators are also thriving, who accompany the broadcasts and explain what the most attractive lines are. And it is aimed not only at spectators at home, but also at the audience on the pitches. Quite a few stadiums have already opened gambling rooms, and some expect that in the future, next to every chair in the stands, next to the place designated for the drinking glass – we will also see a small screen that allows for fast gambling.
All of these make the audience part of the game, and the viewers are no longer passive. They see a lot more games in a lot more disciplines, staying to the end, more alert than ever. Suddenly they care about that football game in Australia at 10am. Suddenly they not only encourage “their” team, but have an interest that a certain player in the opposing team will also succeed. They are much more emotionally invested than before, and in a lot of ways. And it never ends; Bet before the game and during the game, and when it ends you will find another one. A world sport sewn on the addiction to the thrills of gambling.
But it’s not just a matter of emotion, obviously. Now everyone is looking at the numbers. And unlike the fantasy firsts, who had to be amateur statisticians, gamblers today are armchair-statisticians who let algorithms work for them. This is what the Israeli company SideLines, for example, offers, which runs an app for gamblers. “We are connected to every source of data in the world,” says Or Lifshitz, CEO and co-founder of the company. We have our own content writers who give testimonials, and we present everything, visually, in a very convenient way – something that the betting agencies have not yet understood the need for. ” At the end the nerds and the cockroaches do the same thing.
More addicts, and much less real sports
But this flood of gambling also has quite a few side effects. And no, this is not a lament for the world in which we united one group and devoted ourselves only to it, or for matter-of-fact TV broadcasts free from the countless gambling statistics that run on screen. This is, first of all, the issue of addiction. The scope of sports games at any given moment is, as mentioned, a significant catalyst for interest, as is the technology, which allows for easy, fast, multiple bets, even for those who do not follow the industry, understand sports or are skilled in controlling the volume of their bets. Where will this take all the new gamblers?
According to studies, about 2 million Americans are already addicted to gambling. In the industry, of course, it is argued that it is precisely the refinements that define the risks. “A regulated market is always better than a black market,” says Davidovich. “The whole world goes to a place like this. Look at Israel, where there are no legal bets except for the winner who gives a bad relationship, which makes most people gamble on illegal sites, without regulation and no amount limits. In countries where the bets are legal, anyone who wants to bet more than $ 500 “A pay slip should be brought in a month, for example. Operators know how to spot cases where gambling amounts jump dramatically and block those gamblers. In general, studies show that less than 3% of people are addicted to it. The majority invest $ 200 a month, for their fun.”
But in today’s America even $ 200 or $ 500 a month can shake a person’s life, or at least make him spend quite a bit for a short thrill.
Another question is what it will do to the sport. For example, focusing on individual athletes. “The player is much more important than the team,” says Lifshitz. “For quite a few years now there has been talk that fans are much more connected to a player than a team, they move after LeBron James to every team he plays for, and that also happens because of the bets. Some gamblers do not watch an entire game The results of their bets. ”
This power given to one player can be dangerous. If in the case of the Chicago White Sox in 1919 nine players had to be bribed to sell a final series, today a player does not have to do too much to sell himself to gamblers, enough to miss a shot or two and he will make a lot of money. When you can bet on whether a particular batsman will hit his next ball, whether a quarterback will succeed in the next pass or what the basketball player’s shooting percentage will be, the temptation they face is quite great. This is especially true for college players, young people who do not earn like the pros and may be more easily tempted. How clean will the game be, and when will the first scandal explode?
And in general, what will it do to all the industries that are based on the question which team is better? If it’s more important to me that a certain player scores 20 points than that my team wins, or that it’s really critical to me that a certain team wins by a certain margin than the victory itself, what’s left of my love of sports? And what is left of the basic idea of sport, as a competition in which victory is the only important thing?