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The First Ever Sports Gambling Roundtable

“Prohibition didn’t work and legislating the gambling habits of Americans won’t either. The pandemic creating state-to-state budget shortfalls will only speed up the process.”

Vik Chokshi

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With the gambling industry booming, there are now so many stories and topics that catch my eye. And, behind that industry news, comes the content creators and the people who cover it, all of whom have colorful and different viewpoints. So, once a month, I’m going to try to gather these various gambling and fantasy professionals to discuss relevant industry topics. This should be fun, so let the games begin.

For this column, we have Matt Perrault (MP) who is a Host of Pushing the Odds on SportsMap Radio; Mike Gill (MG), Host of The Sports Bash on 97.3 ESPN; Julian Edlow (JE) who is a DFS analyst for DraftKings and sports betting content creator for Awesemo; and last, but not least, Steve Cofield (SC), Host of Cofield and Co. on ESPN Las Vegas.

Gambling on the election in the U.S. is currently not legal, but, do you see that changing in the future? It seemed like everyone was either following the election odds or bet on the election this year, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Updating the latest market (betting odds) on the US election: Biden 64,  Trump 35

MP: Gambling on the US Presidential Election is one of the biggest gold mines awaiting the US sports books following the legalization of sports betting in America. Internationally, this has been a monster event every 4 years but this year, because so many new American gamblers are now in the market, the handle at the offshore sports books was truly incredible. It was widely reported that the total handle at each offshore book was equivalent to 2 Super Bowls. Going into election night, one offshore reported a handle of over $500 Million and that was before the wild betting post Trump winning Florida and Texas that swung the odds dramatically for about 3 hours. 

I have no doubt that the US Presidential Election in 2024 will be legal in at least 3 states. New Jersey, Indiana and Colorado have all shown a willingness to legalize gambling on things like table tennis and competitive eating. They are aggressive and the companies licensed in those states have European owners that understand how to book an election. 

However, Nevada is expected to be unwilling to legalize such a market. It would be a massive mistake but Nevada is getting left behind more and more every day in the sports gambling space. The companies here don’t really care about that at the moment. One day, maybe they will get aggressive again, but right now, I would say yes to the betting on the election being legal in certain states by 2024 but no to it being legal in Nevada. 

MG: I don’t think this is something we will see in the future, but would not be surprised if it does happen.  Like him or not President Trump was a polarizing figure, so I’m not sure there will ever be interest in an election again like there was in the 2020 election. However, if it was to happen, it would because of this year’s election. I do think if it were legal, a site like Prop Swap would benefit, where you could buy and sell the tickets as the odds change. Can you imagine this year, if you could go there and buy and sell tickets from say 10pm on Tuesday to 10am the following day. You see some unreal tickets change hands! 

JE: Honestly I don’t really do politics, but betting an election is obviously much different than a sporting event — especially the live lines that got so much attention on Twitter during this election. A big lead in electoral votes isn’t the same as the Falcons’ 28-3 lead over the Patriots. Ground can be much more predictably made up for an election. So I don’t think the market is even in a place where it’s ready to be legalized in the US. Sportsbooks would be leaving themselves open to huge liabilities with some of those live lines. Like everything in the gambling world, I do think it’ll become legalized. But in terms of when and where that’ll happen, I feel like we’re too far out to know (at least with my limited knowledge).

SC: I’d love to see it happen. And, that’s a lot of taxable betting dollars pouring out of the U.S. or going to illegal bookmakers. But, I don’t see it changing anytime soon. The elections are razor thin now and there’s claims of fraud now! Nevada’s count is currently being challenged. As an example, imagine if President Trump could claim that the state is altering the count because Nevada’s sports books need Joe Biden to win? 

Voters in six states on Tuesday approved a diverse bag of sports betting and gaming initiatives, including Maryland, South Dakota and Louisiana. Do you think gambling on sports will eventually be legalized in all 50 states or close to it? And, in what time frame?

MP: I do not ever see Utah or Alabama legalizing sports gambling. States that don’t have lotteries right now are not going to legalize sports gambling, in my opinion. However, I do think in the other 48 states, you will be able to bet on sports in some form. Some will offer mobile and brick and mortar. Some will just offer one or other but I do think that 48 states will be legal within the next 10 years. 

Post pandemic, sports betting is going to be an easy revenue stream for states. Look at the states surrounding Tennessee, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Those states that don’t have it, will have it within 3 years because their residents are crossing states. Others states will follow soon after that. If California, Texas, or Florida legalize in the next 5 years, the entire space will change and the industry will grow leaps and bounds. 

MG: I figure at some point the revenue created will just be too much for even the most conservative states to ignore.  However, I think it could be 5-10 years before we see all 50 states on board.  Here in NJ it took years, and many thought after it got voted down back in the late 70’s, it would never be legal here, so I guess anything is possible. 

New Jersey Betting Revenue in 2018 - Bet-NJ

JE: All 50 states are a little ambitious, but it’s going to be the large majority of states and it’s going to be soon. Look where we are now. In the middle of 2018 you had to go to Vegas to legally bet sports. Two years later, and you can essentially get a legal bet in half of the states. I think within the next five years the boom continues and we get to 40 or so legal states. 

SC: Within five years, sports betting will be legal in some form or fashion in 40+ states. Prohibition didn’t work and legislating the gambling habits of Americans won’t either. The pandemic creating state-to-state budget shortfalls will only speed up the process.

Last week, DraftKings announced an exclusive, multi-year relationship with Bryson DeChambeau as the first active professional golfer to represent it. Do you see more gambling and fantasy companies doing this? Possibly a new trend, similar to what happened when poker first got famous after Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP? 

MP: I believe that in the next three years, sports marketing deals will be dominated by the sports books. Bryson is just the first of what I think will be tons of pro golfers with sponsorship deals on tour with sports books. NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB players will soon be doing commercials like the one Jamie Foxx just did for BetMGM. Now that the leagues are in bed with the books, their athletes are going to be front and center promoting the brands. 

The difference with sports gambling compared to DFS or Poker is that sports gambling has an audience that is 5, 6, maybe 10 times the size of the other two games of skill. Chris Moneymaker made poker cool but not everyone played the game. It was illegal to bet on in certain places but some people just don’t play cards. DFS took time to learn and bring players up to speed on how you could win. Sports gambling is as well known as to how many strikes you get at the plate. 

MG: No doubt, I can see the logos all over athletes and sports that will allow it.  I think you’ll continue to see this happening. 

JE: Absolutely. It’s going to be cool to see Bryson rocking DK gear at The Masters, but I think we should’ve been able to see stuff like this coming. DK has been all over professional sports stadiums for years and worked with some really big name professional athletes. We’ve seen DraftKings sponsored uniforms in the WNBA. It’s just going to continue to grow. 

SC: There’s no doubt sportsbooks and fantasy companies will try it. To me, they’re playing a dangerous game of optics. Especially with athletes in team sports that have a money line or point spread.

The Internal Revenue Service last week doubled down on its position that daily fantasy sports entry fees are akin to sports wagers. DraftKings’ CEO Jason Robbins responded by rejecting the notion. What are your thoughts on this touchy subject?

MP: DFS has been and will always be gambling. Now, some will call DFS a game of skill. It is. So is sports gambling. So is poker.

I’m not blindly betting on a game every day. I do research. I study. I learn and then I bet. I know the odds and I try to find angles that will help me win at a 53% clip. Sports betting is really, really hard. But so is DFS and so is poker. All 3 are games of skill and all 3 are gambling. 

The reason that certain states allow DFS companies to operate in them is because those states classify DFS as NOT gambling. If a DFS company comes to Nevada where we have classified DFS as gambling, then they can’t go to other states and claim the opposite. So, for IRS purposes, it’s a big deal that DFS entries are not seen as placing a bet. I believe it totally is but I get the game they are playing with the language. 

MG: In reality, fantasy sports are a form of gambling.  It might be a longer term bet, that doesn’t depend on the outcome of a game, but money is used to enter a league and earnings are distributed, that’s gambling. 

JE: I just want to make it clear that I’m not an employee of DraftKings and my thoughts in no way reflect the company, but in over five years of worth with DK I think it’s pretty clear that DFS is a different animal than gambling.

When you’re betting on a game, you’re going against the book on a line they set. Building a fantasy lineup is completely different. Yes, there’s an entry fee that you’re risking, but I think that’s the only similarity to gambling. If you can project ownership, study matchups, depth charts, etc. you can create a path to become a good DFS player. But in order to do that, you need to try and predict what other people you’re competing against are going to do. If I’m betting a team against the spread, I don’t care what side other people are betting. I’m not trying to be different. I only care if my research says it’s the right side.

SC: He’s completely incorrect. DFS is gambling. Fantasy and sports betting are both games of skill. They’re no different. Another way to look at it? Betting on the teams is gambling, right? But betting on the players performances isn’t?

Virginia Governor Signs Fantasy Sports Bill - WSJ

Plus with several DFS scandals in the past, it’s pretty clear the industry needs real oversight on the state or federal level. 

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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