You could have bet Steve Kerr, who seldom misses an opportunity to comment on current events, would be among the first high-profile sports figures to address the Supreme Court’s decision enabling states to decide whether to allow gambling on professional and college sports.
“I take the Warriors plus one and a half,” Golden State’s coach said before his team’s Western Conference final Monday night at Houston. “… I guess I’m allowed to announce my picks for the week. Stay away from Boston. You’ve got to be careful on those Game 2s.
“… Adam Silver on line two. I’m about to get fined.”
It’s doubtful NBA Commissioner Silver did anything other than laugh at Kerr, who obviously was joking. But after sports wagering begins expanding to states beyond Nevada, Silver, other league commissioners and NCAA officials probably will insist coaches and players refrain from talking publicly about gambling. It’s not good for sports if fans, bettors or not, believe the athletes involved in the action on fields and courts know too much about the action away from them.
It’s clear that we are on the verge of a new world in sports.
It will also be a new world in sports media.
In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling, the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal wrote last week, “Any media organization without a contingency plan to follow suit is missing a possible lifeline in what has been very rough waters for the business.”
Among the people who foresaw this future were former sportscaster Brent Musburger and his nephew, Brian, who started the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) 18 months ago. The Action Network, targeting the same audience of sports bettors and fantasy players, debuted last year.
VSiN’s slogan: We’re Changing the Way You Watch Sports.
Change will come more rapidly with the Supreme Court’s decision.
“This is going to open up a whole new direction of reporting on sports,” VSiN executive producer Rick Jaffe said in an e-mail. “Games that normally people might have turned off previously because they were too one-sided in one way or another will hold fans’ interest until the end. We talk all of the time in the office about the game itself might have been no good, but it went down to the wire on either the spread or the over-under.”
We have research to support that already in the NFL.
According to the American Gaming Assn., non-bettors watch 16 games per season compared to 35 for regular bettors. More to the point, the latter group also accounts for 47% of all the minutes of games watched, although it represents only 25% of the audience.
If gambling on NFL games is legalized in most states, the betting audience is expected to increase to 50% of the audience.
That won’t happen overnight. New Jersey, which brought the case to the Supreme Court, will need all of at least two weeks. The state expects to have a sports book open by Memorial Day. Four other states probably aren’t far behind. It is projected that 32 states, including California, will be in operation within five years.
Media outlets will start preparing sooner rather than later. Those broadcasting NFL games can use the AGA estimates to start selling advertising today. So can those broadcasting games in other major sports, assuming they also will have more viewers for more hours.
There will be countless of hours of other gambling-related inventory for them as well from media outlets that don’t carry games.
Sports gambling has existed as long as sports have, though traditional media never have totally embraced it. CBS was groundbreaking when it hired Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder in 1976 to appear regularly on “The NFL Today” pregame show, but he wasn’t allowed to discuss odds or betting lines. The subject is still kept at arm’s length.
However, soon you can expect television shows, perhaps even channels, devoted to gambling. Some newspapers and other outlets with websites will begin covering it like they do the stock market.
That’s merely the beginning of the possibilities. There will be mobile apps that enable you to legally bet on games as they occur.
Let’s say you took Cleveland over Boston in Game 1 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals. It was clear early you would lose. But you might still have won had you correctly bet during the game the over-under on how many points LeBron James would score. If you had Houston on Monday night, maybe you could have recouped your losses with the over-under on how many times TNT’s Marv Albert would say, “Yes!”
You don’t like this new world of sports media?