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Volume 21 No. 47
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No. 1 — The American Sports Gambler

Leagues go all in, rush to embrace the evolving U.S. gambling market and all its revenue potential
Photo: getty images

Society long has wrestled with its stance on gambling, conflicted by its economic potential weighed against its societal cost. So while American Sports Gamblers have been around for as long as there have been sports in America, the U.S. sports industry has for the last century worked relentlessly to keep them at arm’s length.

Oh, how that card has turned. 

When the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting in May, the pro sports establishment not only accepted the ruling, it embraced it. The NBA, NHL and MLB landed eight-figure deals with MGM Resorts. William Hill signed up to sponsor two NHL teams. The deal pipeline is flowing, with loads more to come. 

AT THE TOP

SBJ’s selections as the most influential people in sports business

2004

Paul Tagliabue

2005

George Bodenheimer

2006

George Bodenheimer

2007

Brian Roberts

2008

George Bodenheimer

2009

Jacques Rogge

2010

Roger Goodell

2011

Steve Burke

2012

John Skipper

2013

Randy Freer / Eric Shanks

2014

Adam Silver

2015

Bob Iger

2016

Adam Silver 

2017

Donald Trump

2018

The American Sports Gambler


So how did the American Sports Gambler go from persona non grata to persona waaaaay grata?

When the Supreme Court issued its ruling, it left leagues little choice but to find their way to a productive coexistence with the regulated gaming industry. That might have gotten them from averse to accepting, but it doesn’t explain eager. To get there, you have to consider the way the American Sports Gambler has evolved in the last few years, and is expected to evolve in the next few.

For those years that the leagues opposed gambling, a bet was something that was placed at a sportsbook, likely in a casino and almost always before the start of a game. A bet placed today most likely will be placed not at a casino, but through an app on a mobile device. That means the American Sports Gambler can place a bet at a stadium or an arena, or from a recliner at home. And those bets aren’t all placed before the game. Mobile wagering has allowed for the development of in-play betting, which allows for wagers on chunks of a game — whether a team will score on a drive in football or in an inning in baseball — or even on an individual, micro-sized outcome, like who will score the next bucket, or the speed of the next pitch.

Proponents in sports envision fans spending the bulk of a game betting $5 or $10 at a time, perhaps dozens of times a game, from their seats or their sofas.

The industry’s approach changed because American Sports Gamblers changed. It’s betting big that they’re about to change even more.


2018’s Top 50 Most Influential People in Sports Business