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Wanna bet?


WORLD Radio - Wanna bet?

Legalized sports betting has turned into a modern-day gambling gold rush

A customer looks over daily sheets inside FanDuel Sportsbook inside Footprint Center, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Phoenix. Matt York/Associated Press Photo

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 16th of November, 2021.

Thanks for joining us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I'm Nick Eicher.

First up: taking a gamble.

If the advertising during your favorite sports viewing isn’t evidence enough, there’s a new game in town—legal sports betting. Once relegated to Nevada casinos or illegal sportsbooks, sports betting is now legal in more than two dozen states. And it’s expected to become a multi-billion-dollar industry.

WORLD correspondent Bonnie Pritchett talked to several people watching the odds to see how it will all play out.

GAME 3 WORLD SERIES 1936: [bat crack] There it goes long, deep into center field. Going. Going. A home run. A home run. Lou Gehrig…

BONNIE PRITCHETT, REPORTER: Cheers and groans over a homerun, touchdown, or goal aren’t coming only from fans emotionally invested in their team’s performance.

They’re also coming from sports enthusiasts who have a lot more riding on the game than bragging rights.

CAESAR: We. Are. Caesars. [CHEERS]

JAMIE FOXX: Now you’re winning with the king of sportsbooks.

Sports betting is as old as sports itself. It was illegal in 1919 when eight Chicago White Sox players took bribes to throw the World Series they were favored to win. That earned the team a new name—the Black Sox.

Betting remained illegal until three years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional. The high court’s decision gave the remaining 49 states the right to legalize sports betting.

And they did. In spades.

According to the American Gaming Association, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legal sports betting. Five other states have passed or drafted legislation to legalize it.

MILLER: I think that people thought it would explode if the Supreme Court issued the decision that it did.

That’s Keith Miller. He’s a law professor at Drake University. He’s also a visiting professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he teaches on gaming law and sports betting.

MILLER: However, I don't think people really measured the the mega tonnage of the explosion ahead of time very accurately…

The onslaught of advertising shows just how explosively popular sports betting has become.

John Sweeney is the head of advertising specialization and director of the Sports Communication Program at the University of North Carolina. He called the scramble to gain market share a modern-day Gold Rush.

SWEENEY: What you're seeing is major players saying we're going to establish a beachhead. And will it end up with five of them each having 20 percent and blasting each other all the time? Or will it end up that bet MGM has a particularly easy way of working, plus a particularly memorable campaign…

Viewers could once tune out annoying ads. Not anymore.

During Game 2 of the World Series, one of the commentators mentioned the winning odds if the Atlanta Braves catcher hit a home run. And Casino operator Bally purchased the naming rights to Fox Sports regional.

WOMAN: So, get ready. Gear up. I hope you’re as excited as I am and I will see you soon on Bally Sports.

Integration of advertising into the games makes it almost impossible to avoid seeing or hearing them.

SWEENEY: These are integrations, shoe contracts with universities, they’re integrations into the programming itself. I mean, one of sports biggest qualities is most people like to watch games live. So, commercials still work. But even there, they're being integrated all over the place.

The ads are not only inescapable on broadcast and cable programming, they’re in the apps fans use for streaming live games. And there, pop-up ads promote live betting throughout the game.

And that’s a problem for some sports fans.

Keith Whyte is director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. He expects calls to its help center to double by next year.

WHYTE: We believe that the rate and severity of problems is going to increase in the United States due to this expansion and due to the lack of prevention mechanisms built in…

The National Football League recently announced a three-year, $6.2 million contribution to the NCPG.

Whyte is grateful for the help. But the offering is a tiny fraction of the estimated $270 million the NFL will make just this season in sportsbook advertising.

Whyte thinks all sports leagues, states, and gambling corporations should dedicate at least 1 percent of gambling proceeds to problem gambling prevention and recovery programs.

The unanticipated and unbridled embrace of legal sports wagering even caught Whyte off guard. So, he’s not sure how effective an aggressive “Gamble Responsibly” campaign will be.

WHYTE: We certainly believe that without aggressive campaigns, the rate and severity of gambling problems will likely increase in the United States. So, I think these efforts are a good start. But fundamentally, these are only one piece of a comprehensive public health campaign…

Law professor Keith Miller says there’s probably only one thing that could curb the insatiable appetite for all that glitters.

MILLER: If there were a major betting scandal in the National Football League. You know, that's the sort of event that could change public attitudes very quickly…

Like it did in 1919.


The film 8 Men Out portrays a fictionalized account of the Chicago White Sox betting scandal that led to 8 players, including slugger Joe Jackson, being banned from the game for life.

KIDS VOICE: Who’s Joe Jackson?

MAN: He’s one of the guys who threw the Series back in ’19. One of them bums from Chicago, kid. One of the Black Sox. [CHEERS]…

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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