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Betting on the future of sports

Reproduced from Deloitte global survey; Note: 32 respondents were men aged 18–24, 100 were men aged 25–34, 274 were men aged 18–75 (this includes men aged 18–34), and 112 were women aged 18–75; Chart: Axios Visuals

The legalization of sports betting is putting pressure on nearly every company that touches athletics to capitalize on what is expected to be an extremely lucrative new industry. 

What's happening: Casinos, leagues and media are finding ways to get a piece of the action.

  • Casinos: MGM, the largest casino operator in the U.S., has already paid tens of millions of dollars to become the official gaming partner of the NBA, NHL and MLB.
  • Leagues: In the future, leagues will fight to ensure that the benefits of gambling flow back to them more directly — whether that's by taking a percentage of all money wagered or even operating their own in-stadium sports books.
  • Media: Networks like CBS and NBC Sports launched a wide array of betting-centric shows last year. Upstarts like The Action Network, a subscription sports betting media company aspiring to be “the ESPN of betting,” are churning out content and creating tools specifically for bettors.
“The reality is, it’s a category of consumer entertainment coming from the darkness into the light, and it’s only going to continue."
— Patrick Keane, CEO of The Action Network, to Axios.

The big picture: In the mid-20th century, television redefined the way we experience sports. Replays and commercial timeouts altered the flow of games, and national telecasts and highlight shows turned local sports fans into national ones.

  • Sports betting could be just as transformative, with Deloitte Global predicting that 40% of U.S. adult sports TV watchers will bet on sports at least occasionally in 2019.
  • So far, it's male dominated: Men (ages 25-34) are responsible for more than half of all sports betting in the U.S.

There's a strong link between sports watching and betting, Deloitte found via focus groups in Europe and North America.

"People who bet a lot, young men especially, are more likely to view a lot of sports —and they bet more when they view more.”
— Duncan Stewart, director of Technology, Media and Telecommunications Research for Deloitte

Yes, but: Not everyone thinks gambling will have a positive impact on the industry, nor do they want to see more coverage of sports betting, according to an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

  • By better than 3-to-1, more Americans see the spread of legalized sports gambling as hurting rather than helping the integrity of professional athletics.
  • Only 10% of Americans who watch sports believe broadcasts should include more discussion of sports betting than they currently do.

Go deeper: The high-stakes game for sports betting dollars