Inside the Industry of Sports Gambling

Sports betting, and mainly Fantasy Football, has taken off in recent years. Here’s the scoop on the wave of Sports Gambling.

Sports gambling is illegal across much of the United States, but that has not stopped people from taking part. Sports betting and now the craze of fantasy football makes it seem like just about every sports fan is placing a wager on the game or setting their fantasy football lineup before the 1 o’clock NFL kickoff on Sundays. In this article, I’ll take you through some staggering statistics of the sports betting and fantasy football industries; mainly the recent growth of fantasy football, where it seems like everyone I know has a team (except me).

Sports Betting

Pete Rose

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In order to understand modern day sports gambling, there are several historical references I must make. First, the black sox scandal of 1919, in which several players were suspected of intentionally losing World Series games in exchange for money from gamblers. Although the entire story is still debated to this day, the fact that eight players were suspected of throwing games in as big of a sporting event as the World Series shows that gambling has always been a major concern in all of sports. Another sports gambling event that shook the baseball universe was the Pete Rose story. Rose was banned from the game in 1989 for gambling. However, it wasn’t until recently that he admitted to betting on his team every night as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Much of the current debate now revolves around Pete Rose as a player, and whether or not he should be allowed to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball is not the only sport aligned with sports betting and gambling. Basketball has recently had its run-ins with cheating as well. Tim Donaghy, NBA official for 13 seasons from 1994 to 2007, was accused and eventually pled guilty to betting on playoff games he was officiating. He also admitted to making calls in his favor that affected the outcome of the game and the point-spread. Oftentimes sports fans will allege refs of “fixing” games, but in the case of Tim Donaghy, their suspicions were realized.

As for modern day sports betting amongst fans and those not associated with the leagues, if you are reading this article, you most likely have placed a wager on a sporting event recently. Whether it be a large scale bet with a bookie, or just a friendly one with a co-worker or buddy, most people have gambled on sports at some point. The thrill of being able to win money is definitely a driver of the sports betting industry, but it is more than that. For many people, watching the game is not nearly as intriguing if they do not have something to watch for. If you have thrown $100 down on the Steelers beating the Jets this past weekend, that game, for you as a Chargers fan, just got a lot more interesting.

This is probably a reason why, according to the University of Maryland School of Medicine study, “the biggest one-day sports gambling event in the United States is the Super Bowl, half of all American adults bet on the Super Bowl, and last year (2012) in Las Vegas over $93.9 million dollars was wagered. It is estimated that worldwide $9.3 billion was wagered in 2012.” The lack of rooting interest for most fans drives them to place a bet, whether it be on the length of the national anthem, the winner of the coin toss or the game itself.

Floyd Mayweather

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Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek ran a fascinating story a few weeks ago regarding Vegas’ big sports weekend in September. Because gambling is legal in Nevada, $35 million dollars were placed in bets on the weekend when the Yankees were facing off against the Red Sox, “Johnny Football” and Texas A&M were battling Alabama, and most importantly Floyd Mayweather was fighting Saul Alvarez. With the NFL games on the slate, that particular weekend saw a 20-25% boom in business compared with an average September weekend. So many people love to gamble, and sports betting is just another way to channel this desire. Okay, we’ve established that sports betting is huge, but what about fantasy football?

The Sports Gambling Phenomenon: Fantasy Football

Fantasy football has recently emerged as the ultimate sports gambling scene in the country. According to a recent Forbes article, fantasy football is now a $70 billion dollar industry. The growth has been staggering in the fantasy football industry, which has been around since 1962. With the growth of the Internet in homes all across the nation, a fantasy boom has taken place over the last ten years.

Fox Business reports that 2 million new fantasy football players signed up in 2012 alone.

 It is incredible how far the market of fantasy football has emerged and blossomed in the last decade. 34 million people now play fantasy sports, and 75% of them are playing fantasy football.

Personally, I am more interested in simply watching the games to see the outcomes, rather than watching for certain players to rack up stats for fantasy football points (sometimes against my Giants!). However, most of America apparently disagrees with me. While researching the topic, Brian Goff of Forbes also found that “the average fantasy gamer spends 3 hours per week managing a team(s), translating to 1.2 billion hours for 23 million players over a 17 week season.” This statistic is incredible, but yet should not come as a surprise to the hardcore fantasy players. Most of us know of someone who spends a ton of time discussing, debating, and setting their lineup week in and week out. (Or it might even be you. Alright, there’s a good chance it is you.)  In fact, there has even been a TV show created within the past few years revolving around a fantasy football league, called “The League.” (It happens to be a hilarious show, by the way. I would strongly suggest checking it out.)

No matter how you put it, the clear intrigue of fantasy football is the gambling aspect. Because fantasy football gambling is legal, it is a perfect commonplace for the gambler and the football fan.  Of course, some hardcore NFL fans fascinated by statistics would still participate in fantasy football if the gambling aspect did not exist. But the primary reason it has become a profitable and lucrative industry is because of the chance to win some cash and the thrill that comes along with it.

Do you play fantasy football, or bet on sports?  If so, what drives you to play?  How do you feel about the fantasy football market?  We’d love to hear your thoughts. Weigh in using Facebook, Twitter or the comment system below.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.