The year is 2024. You and your friends are at a local sports bar watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Toronto Raptors. Luka Doncic is on fire – he’s just made five consecutive 3-point shots. You’re feeling confident, so you take out your phone, open the FanDuel app, and place a bet that Doncic will make his next 3-point attempt. Sure enough, he takes two dribbles, steps back and drills it, earning you five bucks in the span of ten seconds.
How will this hypothetical scenario be made possible in the near future? Well, for starters, advancements in technology have not only made mobile betting possible and more convenient, but it has opened doors for all types of new gambling. By-the-second updates and odds-calculating algorithms allow for constant readjusting of a betting line to reflect live in-game circumstances, as well as options for betting on specific in-game events – such as making or missing the next 3-point attempt – all by tapping a button on your phone.
It is in both the leagues’ and government’s best interest to expand the scope of legalized betting, which would generate billions of dollars in profit for both parties.
With this advanced technology and the many new gaming options for sports gamblers, it is in both the leagues’ and governments’ best interest to expand the scope of legalized betting, which would generate billions of dollars in profit for the leagues (through multiple revenue streams) and for governments that regulate it. According to a report by Zion Market Research, the global sports betting market is estimated to reach $155 billion by 2024, up from $104 billion in 2017. Leagues will be able to earn revenue from sports gambling in a number of ways. For starters, mobile sports betting will increase viewership, making TV deals more lucrative. TV networks will also be able to include a gambling segment on their pregame analysis shows, in similar fashion to ESPN’s Fantasy Football picks each week on Sunday NFL Countdown, thus increasing their viewership as well. Aside from larger TV contracts, leagues will also be able to monetize sports gambling by licensing “official team data”, including player statistics and game outcomes to gambling providers, or even charge an integrity fee to sportsbooks, taking a percentage of all wagers.
These are very legitimate concerns, but in the end, the opportunity for profit is too great.
The legality of sports betting can be a tricky topic to navigate. In the United States, the Supreme Court overturned the federal law that prohibited single-game sports bets outside of Nevada. However, while this ruling overturned the federal ban, individual states would determine their own laws regarding sports betting. Some states, such as New Jersey, pounced on this opportunity and immediately legalized sports betting, others did so with certain restrictions, such as Mississippi and North Carolina, who kept mobile betting illegal. Still, sports gambling remains prohibited in the majority of states, although there seems to be significant desire in many of those states to introduce sports gambling legislation in the near future, so as to generate their own revenue and not have their residents spend their gambling money in another state in which sports betting is legal.
The story is quite a different one here in Canada. Sports betting is legal across the country, but are only offered legally through government websites. The government-regulated sites are only allowed to offer parlay-style betting—where you pick the outcome of multiple games and must get all of them right—meaning you cannot wager on a single game. That being said, there is nothing in the law that prohibits Canadians from placing bets with foreign websites, so long as they are legally allowed to operate in whichever jurisdiction they are based. This means that Canadians are currently betting online with foreign gambling services, which is totally legal because they are licensed in their own country. Surely it is in the best interests of the Canadian government to legalize and offer all the new and unique sports gambling services that they can, which would discourage Canadians from spending their money abroad, and thus earn revenue for the government.
For years, the opponents of sports gambling have cited concerns such as match fixing and the unfair use of insider information – knowledge about injuries, for example – to support the position that enhanced sports gambling is a bad idea. These are very legitimate concerns, but in the end, the opportunity for profit is too great. Will there be scandals? Absolutely. But, leagues will grow, popularity will grow, league revenue will grow, government revenue will grow, and in the end, it will have been worth it.