Sports betting will continue to thrive in 2022, but some see risks in growth

When the federal ban on sports betting was overturned in 2018, there was a sprint in the market as states eager to jump into the gambling business headfirst. And since then, there has been a constant trickle of new states opening their doors to gambling operators such as Caesars and MGM.

Some 112 million Americans – more than a third of the population – can now legally bet on sports without leaving their couch. 50 million more need only jump in their car to place a bet in person.

But these are still the early days of sports gambling in the United States, and industry stakeholders expect 2022 to be another boom year, with many of the most populous states moving towards legalization. .

New York launched mobile betting this week. Bettors in three states, including Ohio, should be able to start placing bets later this year, joining 29 states where sports betting is already legal. As Florida continues to iron out legal issues, efforts by lawmakers in Georgia, North Carolina and Massachusetts are expected to intensify. And the case could finally be submitted to Californian voters by the end of the year.

“There has been tremendous growth, but these states are major swings in the size of the US legal market,” said Christopher Halpin, executive vice president and chief strategy and growth officer for the NFL.

The leagues began preparing as soon as it became clear that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the 1992 law that made sports betting illegal everywhere but Nevada, was vulnerable. Adamantly resilient not so long ago, America’s sports leagues are now embracing sports gaming as a business boon and a way to connect with fans, especially young people. New business partnerships are announced weekly, and teams and leagues have continually explored ways to tailor game-day experiences both in person and on TV to potential bettors.

More than $87 billion has been legally bet on sports since the Supreme Court struck down the law, according to industry site LegalSportsReport.com, and some 40 million Americans had to bet on the NFL regular season. which ended last weekend. While many thought the repeal of PASPA would simply give existing players a legal way to place bets, early feedback suggests many new bettors have been enticed to place bets and all players are enjoying new betting options. bets easily accessible.

Almost all states continue to experience year-over-year growth. New Jersey alone saw $1.26 billion in sports betting in November, up more than 25% from a year earlier. In September, the National Council on Problem Gambling released a study showing that the number of Americans betting on sports increased by 30% over an 18-month period, an increase of 15.3 million bettors.

But as carriers rush to set up shop in each new state that comes online, some worry the pace and patchwork nature of state-by-state laws are failing to create an appropriate safety net.

“We’re still in the first run of a lot of these things,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the NCPG, making it too “soon to tell the impact and severity of gambling addiction.” But research from his organization suggests the risk of problem gambling has doubled since 2018 and is heavily concentrated among young male e-sports fans.

“The signs we are seeing are very troubling,” he said.

Even before the sports betting ban fell, sports league executives said they knew they should play an active role in shaping the legal market. They would need to help draft legislation, partner with sportsbooks, and encourage stakeholders to operate in certain guardrails.

“We always say, ‘If they break it, we still own it,'” Halpin said, “and we’re as exposed as the worst sportsbook in the worst market.”

The NFL has studied the game’s international markets and conducted extensive fan research. They wanted to learn from any missteps in Europe and Australia, where sports betting has been legal for decades, and ensure they were able to reach potential players without offending fans who have no interest in to bet.

By mid-2018, as the U.S. plunged into gambling waters, more mature markets were already regressing. In Britain, government officials have started to review regulations and football leagues, anticipating a rollback, have started to preemptively reduce certain gambling activities. Sports betting there has limited advertising opportunities during the matches, and many expect England’s football teams to soon face a ban on game logos on uniforms and limits on signage of games in stadiums.

“They had to react to some of the backlash and put some of these things in place,” said Casey Clark, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association, the gaming industry lobby group. We’re never going to be in that position because we’re light years ahead of what they were at this point in their maturity.”

In the United States, advertisements for gambling are now staples of sports programming, just like light beer, vans or running shoes. Viewers take note: The Federal Communications Commission has filed a steady stream of complaints related to sports betting ads in recent months, according to its records.

“This is a potentially dangerous situation,” someone from Waynesboro, Va. wrote.

“When are you going to ban sports betting ads like you did for cigarettes? Addiction is real and these ads fuel gambling addiction,” another viewer said. “Ads are worse than irresponsible .”

The major American sports leagues limit the number of advertisements allowed during the broadcast of a game. The NFL only allows one ad per quarter, for example, in addition to one pre-game and one at halftime. The proliferation of sports betting advertising is generally outside the three-hour play window, particularly in commercial blocks controlled by local stations. Competitive gambling markets such as New Jersey, Michigan and Colorado can be inundated with advertisements of local sportsbooks vying for customers.

“It’s like a political season because they’ll just sell the ad to whoever has the highest and strongest demand,” said Halpin, who led the NFL’s play efforts but is leaving the league. this month to become chief financial officer of the digital media holding company. IAC company. “Local sports betting operators can pay more than anyone else.”

Sports media companies are neck and neck in the gambling business. Barstool Sports operates a sportsbook available in 11 states, and Fox Bet is available in four states; his pick promotion of six has been part of the Fox football broadcast every Sunday. And ESPN has been exploring licensing deals with gambling operators that could net the company $3 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Still, league officials see the value of dividing their offerings — creating content that speaks to a gaming audience but doesn’t detract from or replace what fans are used to.

NFL research found that while 42% of its fans include at least occasional bettors, one in five actively oppose sports betting. The league therefore encourages its television partners not to adapt match broadcasts to players.

The NBA has launched a game-focused game simulcast called NBABet Stream, which streams select games for NBA TV and League Pass subscribers. It also has studio programming and social media initiatives aimed at gamers.

“Sports betting should be an opt-in experience for those interested in sports betting,” said Scott Kaufman-Ross, NBA senior vice president for gaming initiatives. “We want it to be part of their experience, but for those who aren’t interested, we don’t want to force it on them.”

Whyte, of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said his call centers had never been busier and he was increasingly concerned about the influx of new bettors – and the lack of resources for them. problem gamblers.

Regulations and resources vary from state to state. Bettors must be 21 to register with an online bookmaker in Virginia. But just across the Potomac River, they only need 18 in the District of Columbia.

The money and resources spent on problem gambling also vary from state to state. Some have allocated significant funds for helplines, treatment programs and counselling, while others have allocated nothing.

In a recent survey, the NCPG found that the risk of problem gambling increased the most among younger gamblers and those who engage in fantasy sports daily. Whyte said he sees operators targeting young bettors and potentially training underage potential bettors. Teenagers can sign up for a free Fantasy Sports account, for example, effectively passing personal information to a gambling operator, who can pounce as soon as the customer is old enough to place a bet.

“In the conversations we’ve had with the leagues, I think they’ve been unpleasantly surprised at all the gaps in the safety net,” Whyte said. “I think a lot of leagues and a lot of their owners have taken the industry assertions at face value: ‘Oh, we’ve got this responsible gambling thing covered. Don’t worry. It’s fine.’ “

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