While the four major U.S. sports leagues wrestle with how to approach the rapidly expanding legal sports betting market in the states, a bevy of smaller leagues and sports organizations are quickly embracing the emerging market.
The reason various niche sports are seeking out deals with sportsbook operators, gaming companies and sports information providers is grounded in the desire to expand their sports through the increased fan engagement that sports wagering can stimulate.
The four big dogs — Major League Baseball, the National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League — have long known that gambling drives eyeballs, but as longtime opponents of legal sports betting, they are proceeding more cautiously in this new era. In fact, the leagues are calling for federal intervention on sports betting once again. But in any framework, legal sports betting is good for business and a potential lifeline for leagues fighting to stay afloat.
Indiana on Friday became the latest state to hold a sports betting hearing, when lawmakers heard from various corners of the industry — a technology provider, the NBA, an anti-gambling group and small business owner Patrick Doerflein, who owns an app called “Burn and Bet,” referred to himself as a “hillbilly guy from Brown County” and asked legislators not to over regulate.
While the session had moments of levity, it was a very different sort of hearing in Illinois on Wednesday. Indiana state lawmakers put forth several sports betting bills in 2018 and the Gaming Commission signed on with a market analysis firm, but Hoosier State legislators on the Interim Joint Public Policy Committee still appeared to be in the early learning stages of learning about sports wagering.
One lawmaker asked if a technology professional had said “toad system” when he was referring to a “tote system,” and another asked NBA executive Dan Spillane if any states that have legalized sports betting passed a law granting the league an “integrity fee.” (None have.) This was in stark contrast to contract with gaming entities independently?”