It’s everywhere. In every sport. On every channel. Every time a game goes to a commercial, it’s there. I can’t escape it.
I’m not talking about the abundance of Toyota advertisements or the insistence of Kay Jewelers that it’s not just ring season in the NFL. I’m referencing the influx of sportsbooks that have permeated the sports world.
The industry is massive. According to Grand View Research, the market share of global sports betting was over $83 billion in 2022, with over $11 billion coming from the United States alone.
Remember when Nevada was the only place you could bet on a game? Now, five years after the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, sports betting is legalized in 35 states (and Washington D.C.) as of August 16, 2023.
Even as an under-21-year-old, I could still chance my money online in seven states across America. In New Mexico, I could mosey into an in-person sportsbook and place a bet fresh off my 18th birthday if I so desired.
Alice Tsang, a Professor of Finance at Taylor University, said states are so quick to legalize sports betting because they are “revenue driven.”
“There's this thinking,” Tsang said, “by state and local governments, that if (they) are to have a sustainable revenue source, in light of all the expenditures that (they) have to provide for…then (gambling) could be looked at as a good source of revenue, because in their mind, there are enough people who voluntarily pay into that revenue stream.”
But it’s not just states that want a piece of the pie. Individual sports leagues and teams are sponsored by and promote sportsbooks in their stadiums. Why let everyone else profit off of your product?
ESPN occasionally shows betting lines when previewing NFL games and SportsCenter With Scott Van Pelt (ESPN’s midnight iteration of SportsCenter) has given sports betting its own dedicated segment: Bad Beats, which highlights the worst breaks of the night and weekend.
Every football game I watch, whether it’s Monday Night Football or a Sunday afternoon Bears vs. Vikings game, I’m bombarded with advertisements to place a bet.
Jamie Foxx calls out to viewers to join BetMGM, Kevin Hart is smack on the front of the DraftKings website, and Caesar’s Sportsbook is the official betting sponsor of the NFL complete with a commercial featuring Peyton, Eli, Archie and Cooper Manning.
How about getting the fix of betting on sports without any of the risk of losing money? Enter Fliff. Advertised as the “social sportsbook,” users can risk virtual coins without needing to put up any money.
Want to really throw a wrench into the mix? See Exhibit A: The Cincinnati Reds. As the team famous for Pete Rose and one of the most influential gambling scandals in sports, it would seem that they would be as far away from sports betting as possible. And yet, the Great American Ballpark hosts an MGM Sportsbook inside of a stadium restaurant…and the nearest entrance is through East Pete Rose Way.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned (at 19 years old). Maybe I just don’t like gambling in general. But I don’t think it’s just me when I say that gambling taking over the entirety of the sports world from the WNBA to the Kentucky Derby isn’t a good thing.
It’s clearly a major revenue stream for states and companies, and I don’t blame them for capitalizing on the opportunity. The purpose of a for-profit company is to make money. But maybe I miss the days when sportsbooks weren’t so prevalent. Maybe I miss the days when I could watch college football without being reminded I could double my money on how many passing yards 20-year-old Georgia quarterback Carson Beck will throw against Florida.
Maybe I miss the days when I was encouraged to watch sports, not bet on them.