It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, broadcasters were forbidden to speak openly about sports betting. It was almost as though sports betting was not a real thing. A figment of our imagination.
How times have changed? Now, we can hear commentators calling an NFL game, bringing the audience’s attention to the points over/under when a blowout is coming to its conclusion.
Major sports and leagues did not want to acknowledge sports betting for fears that it could corrupt the sport if individuals chose to act illegally in passing on information that could prove vital to bookmakers.
Sport has a litany of cases where match-fixing or betting irregularities have occurred and considerable steps have been taken to make sure sports are played as fairly as possible across the globe.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join them. It’s an old saying, but it rings truer now than ever before when it comes to broadcasters and their change of attitude towards betting. The NFL is regarded as the biggest league in the world and for years, they have done all they could to keep betting away from their sport.
The problem was, placing a bet on an NFL game was legal in Vegas. Football fans would use their knowledge of America’s game to try and win a buck or two. Elsewhere, across the States, illegal bookmakers were doing all they could to make a quick profit without being shut down as sports betting in other states was illegal.
However, on May 14, 2018, everything changed. The Supreme Court declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, unconstitutional. The ruling allowed individual states to pass legislation to make betting legal.
Over half of the states now welcome sports betting while the remaining states are in the process of passing laws to allow sports betting and broadcasters have jumped on the opportunity to promote odds for major sporting events.
The PGA Tour in America is one of the first sports to open its arms and welcome bookmakers to be a big part of their sport going forward. Now, as golf fans watch the world’s best players compete in weekly events, each player's odds for winning the tournament now appear as part of the broadcast.
It’s the future. And more sports will follow knowing the revenue generated is too much to turn down. The NFL has broken down the barriers that separated them from sports betting. Now, it’s own channel, the NFL Network, is promoting odds for matches and teams to win the Super Bowl.
For years, British broadcasters have allowed betting companies to promote their odds before, during and after key sporting events like Premier League fixtures. With the majority of Premier League and Championship clubs sponsored by betting companies, betting is hard to ignore.
The government earns an estimated £4.3 billion a year from gambling and broadcasters are keen to cash in on sports betting. Therefore, soccersupporters will see a range of adverts from the leading betting companies hoping to attract them to their online betting sites.
UK broadcasters are not quite at the stage of promoting the latest odds during their shows, even though betting adverts are seen regularly during the commercial breaks. But that might be something we see more of in the months and years to come.
Of course, when televising live football matches, there is a very good chance that one, if not both teams, are sponsored by a betting company. Nine of the 20 clubs participating in the 2021/22 Premier League campaign started the season with a betting company as their main shirt sponsor.
And the perimeter advertising around the pitches digitally display the leading brands so it’s hard to avoid any form of betting during the fixture.
Some US sports shows exported to the UK do include odds if they form part of the show. The odds will be displayed in the US format which is different to how odds are displayed in the UK (+500 is the American equivalent of 5/1).
Horse racing is the one sport in the UK where leading bookmaker odds and offers have always been highlighted on live broadcast because it plays an important role in the sport, but more sports could follow suit.
Broadcasters have a duty of responsibility to their viewers and while they will happily promote the beading betting sites, they will also make viewers aware of help and support if betting is becoming a problem. This is where the tagline coined in the UK ‘When the fun stops, stop!’ comes from.
As the betting industry continues to grow exponentially, broadcasters will continue to look at ways of increasing their betting coverage while remaining within the guidelines established by the authorities.
In conclusion, sports betting is here to stay and will continue to be a major part of our sports watching experience because it generates massive money for the key stakeholders involved, and of course if they are lucky, the bettors themselves. What is crucial for it to work properly is that the value from the addition of betting, odds and probability into the broadcasts is explained properly to enhance the action, not distract from it. Several sports do this well, some others will surely catch up fast.