Will sports betting make going to the game worth it?

We all know that sports betting is coming to a state near you in the coming months and years. What we haven’t yet figured out is if having sports betting will make going to the games still worth the cost of tickets. There are many ways to look at this, and we thought with the NFL season upon us, it was a good time to investigate the potential impact of betting on the live sports landscape.

It starts with Online

This week, reports from Pennsylvania have Parx Casino applying for a sports betting license, with the idea to open a book in the parking lot of the Eagles stadium. Now, this would really get people into the betting action, allowing them to make a wager on the way into the game. However, with all the interesting in-play bets that are available these days, where does this leave someone who is already inside the building?

This is where online sports betting is such an important piece of the regulated U.S. market. The fact that some states are considering regulations for land-based betting on it own is shortsighted, to say the least. In-game betting is going to drive a ton of revenue in North American sports, as it already does across Europe.

If players aren’t able to access regulated live odds, they will likely revert to the black market sites which will be only too happy to accept the business. When it comes to watching the games in person, it almost serves no purpose to have the betting window outside the stadium. We’ll see what is planned by Parx for the stadium in Philly and how that might impact the other states.

Modern-day scoreboard watching?

There is no question that watching a sporting event live is a wonderful experience. However, what if you have a huge bet on the outcome of a different game than the one you were watching live? Well, the modern-day equivalent of waiting for the scoreboard to update scores is to stream the game on your mobile device. Imagine this scenario: a building erupts in cheers, not because of the baseball game they are watching live, but because that city’s football team is doing something amazing on the road. With the potential number of gamblers in a stadium, this could very well become a reality.

While there really is no way to stop people from doing this – they did pay for the ticket, after all – it is up to teams and leagues to find ways to engage with fans while the game is in play.

Why not just stay home?

There is another position that states that with regulated sports betting in place, a whole new subset of gamblers will emerge. These folks, who may have gone to a game or two during a season, may now decide to spend that money on gambling or at a sports bar so they can focus on all their bets in a more social environment. While this may sound like an extreme case, it is still something that could happen or be a part of the flock away from the games.

So what can be done?

Let’s focus on one main point here: there will be no sports betting without the teams and the league. Now, while some leagues like the NBA are asking for a percentage of the handle as an “integrity fee”, what really needs to happen is that gambling needs to subsidize the live event costs.

We aren’t sure exactly what would work best, but for sure something has to be done. Whether it is giving teams their own sportsbook license, or giving a portion of all bets on a team to that team directly, there is a solution out there. This is what we do know: teams are going to want to have people in the seats, and loads of people are going to be betting. Finding a way to make these two groups coexist in the same landscape is critical to the success of both sides as we move forward into uncharted waters.


Our in-house expert for all things regulation, Jackson covers all major recent developments across US states relating to gambling laws & legislation.