People: Voices

Column: A big bet

By A.J. Moore

What comes next?

This is a popular question among those who analyze the sports media.

Increases in livestreaming, viewer control of camera angles and 4D viewing are common answers. When any of this becomes widely available is unknown. Sorry for not providing more definitive information, but when it comes to new media innovations, they all tend to be “in about five years.”

However, I can provide certainty about something big on the sports media horizon. As a matter of fact, it’s happening now. The mainstream sports media will finally acknowledge its relationship with gambling instead of perpetuating the mystery behind its shadowy, seductive mistress.

Look for the leagues and networks in 2018 to go Facebook Official with gambling.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently addressing the issue, and ahead of the decision, Congress and many state governments are prepping for widespread legalized sports gambling. The widespread release of gambling-centric programming could help boost interest in a number of media outlets and sports franchises that are losing eyeballs in an increasingly fragmented marketplace.   

Like it or not traditionalists, gambling has always been the wizard behind the scenes driving a lot of interest, ratings and advertising dollars. Soon, the curtain will be pulled back and gambling will no longer be a taboo subject.

For a long time, you needed to understand the codewords once used by Al Michaels and Brent Musburger during their telecasts. Sportscasters will no longer need to make opaque references to the significance of a late-game field goal that changes the score differential from 20 to 23.

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt is already at the forefront of mixing gambling talk into his normal analysis. Now he is unique, but soon there will be many. Former players and coaches who have slowly turned into fantasy sports (a form of gambling) experts next will provide insight into parlays, teasers and over/unders. Such detailed talk about gambling from reputable sports media figures was unfathomable not that long ago.

The fact that mainstream sports outlets (and the leagues) hid their symbiotic relationship with gambling was a major hypocrisy. The NCAA, which has bankrolled the court cases about legalized gambling because it feels it will hurt the integrity of the game, regularly turns a massive profit from March Madness and a litany of bowl games played before sparse crowds on Tuesday nights.

Who do you think is most interested in watching Marshall play Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl?

The leagues benefit from providing inventory for the networks that then satisfy those with gambling on their minds. Nonetheless, those leagues then publicly denounce gambling and the networks such as ESPN tread lightly on the subject not to anger their partners. Likely this summer the charade will end and the leagues and networks will embrace gambling.

Coming soon to an arena near you — a handheld device at the seat that allows fans to wager on the game without leaving their seats. Fans are happy and teams have a new source of revenue.

All of this could have come sooner, but the major sports leagues were unsure of how they could monetize legalized gambling so they put resistance for New Jersey’s longstanding crusade to bringing gambling to the state.

Those hurdles are being addressed and the answer to what comes next will soon be here.

If you don’t think there will be major changes in the sports media because of legalized gambling, then I have one question for you: Wanna bet?

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