Sports betting is expanding across the U.S. Now, the NCAA has concerns that college athletes will begin accepting bribes en masse.
For many years, the NCAA made its position clear:
“The NCAA opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.”
In his statement, he also mentioned the importance of preserving integrity in NCAA sports, adding that there is an incredible temptation for collegiate athletes to fall victim to the influence of unscrupulous bookmakers or gamblers.
NCAA athletes are young, but not dumb
These athletes are people in their late teens or early twenties. They subject themselves to mental and physical rigors for barely enough money to survive.
The NCAA demands this enforced poverty with an iron fist. Players are not even allowed to accept dinners from donors or boosters.
This stance from an organization (not member schools – the organization itself) that has annual revenues above $1 billion and added $103 million to its assets in 2017. Member schools reported revenues in excess of $9 billion in the same time period.
Collegiate athletes are not a dumb group of people. They can see the money flowing around them. They understand the flow is because of their efforts.
And yet, they are threatened with blacklisting for even dipping a toe in the flood. As an example, by and large, these violations are at the heart of the ongoing bribery scandal affecting players and coaches at more than 20 Division I schools.
The potential for bribery is because of NCAA policy
So, here comes sports betting, and the wringing of hands begins. Everyone can see how a large enough wager would open the door for someone to reach out to principals in the contest.
Is it likely that something like this will happen? Probably. It has happened about once per decade, and that was with one state able to wager legally.
The NCAA created the space for moral hazard with its ridiculous and greedy policies. Athletes generate tremendous revenues. Either their individual schools or the NCAA should pay them and thank them for their services.
The leagues are worried about their necessity, not integrity
However, don’t hold your breath on any sort of change on this front. In fact, the NCAA likely feels emboldened by its partial victory against Ed O’Bannon four years ago.
The more insulting concept floating right now is the faux-outrage that most of the major sports leagues, including the NCAA, are exhibiting about sports betting. They are not concerned about the integrity of their games – the fear is actually about their necessity to the sport.
Let’s be clear – the leagues and television networks have actively promoted gambling for decades. Newspapers have listed point spreads on games for many years. The entire industry of sports pundits and commentators gives its hot takes and inside information on a daily basis.
There is no other reason to publish an injury report. The NFL has mandated the release of that information since 1946.
Nowadays, the reports come faster than ever, and usually from some reporter standing in an empty stadium. And yet, coaches and administrators are shocked – SHOCKED – at the Big Ten‘s motion to create a similar rule on the college level. Suddenly, these people are citing HIPAA concerns about students and how “scary” it all is.
Ultimately, none of that information matters at all – unless you have a vested interest in the outcome of a particular contest. Then, it might matter if the star quarterback got dinged up the Tuesday before a game.
What truly frightens all of these organizations is the loss of their control, the loss of their necessity, and the loss of an incipient opportunity to make money. In the end, that’s what bothers the NCAA about these athletes making money.
After all, if the athletes are getting paid, why would they still need the NCAA?
Research published by Barclays bank points out that for the first time, people born in Generation Z now outnumber Millennials. The oldest members of Generation Z are 23, and all businesses, including sports betting operators, need to change up to cater to the new generation.
Research author Hiral Patel classifies Generation Z as those born from 1995 to 2009. Millennials are those born between 1980 and 1994. Her paper, “Introducing Generation Z” sets out some key differences between the two generations’ attitudes in five areas:
- Financial Habits
- Attitude to work and Education
It’s the parents’ fault
The report argues that these differences arise from:
- Parenting & Household Dynamics: Millennials were raised by the Baby Boom generation, sometimes known as the “Selfish Generation.” As parents they were indulgent and overprotective as well as economically wealthy. Generation Z was brought up by Generation X, considered to be a more discerning, less financially secure generation.
- World economy & international affairs: 9/11 was the key event for many Millennials, whereas Generation Z are more affected by the Great Recession of 2008. The explosion of news on social media has made the younger generation more aware of international affairs at a younger age.
- Technology: Millennials were digital pioneers, adopting the smartphone, broadband internet and social media. Generation Z are “digital natives” who have never experienced a time when these technologies were not an integral part of their life.
The critical point Patel makes in her report is that:
“We fear they are either still trying to adapt their business models to the Millennials or hoping simply to re-use whatever strategies they’ve developed for Millennials on Generation Z. We argue that adopting such a homogenous approach will deliver unsuccessful results as it fails to identify the two generational cohorts as different.”
Less sex, drugs and alcohol
This applies equally to sports betting operators. Ominously one difference is that Generation Z likes “less sex, drugs and alcohol,” than their forebears. Any psychometric test demanding completion of that sequence would probably add “gambling.” If so, marketing sports betting is going to get a whole lot more difficult in the next decade.
One point that is made in the report which offers more optimism is that the new generation is very interested in gaming.
The top two media companies in which Generation Z has an interest are Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts, both are at the forefront of the esports revolution that is ongoing. For internet companies, Tencent also gets a mention, and Tencent seems to own either outright or in part a large part of the video game development industry.
Put both graphics together and what emerges may look confusing to any traditional sports betting marketer, but there are signals as to the way forward.
- Esports will obviously be a bigger issue for Generation Z, and most sports betting operators have already put together esports betting products alongside their normal sports betting to reflect the Millennial’s interest in the games.
- The shift from text based information to visually oriented apps points towards some serious web redesign, but also a need to make sports betting more visual and less about numbers. Busier screens that would make a Baby Boomer wince will be child’s play to the new generation
- Combine this emphasis on the visual with Generation Z’s tiny attention span and the attraction of virtual sports betting becomes more apparent. Virtual sports offer exciting visuals and shorter matches with more frequent betting opportunities. It looks like Generation Z doesn’t want to wait for the outcome of a game before knowing whether they have won or not.
As for traditional sports betting, the idea that Generation Z likes to be more active than the basement-dwelling Millennials suggest that their interest in sports will be more geared to participation that to passively watching on TV.
Either way, their interest in sports looks like it will remain despite competition from esports and passive video game entertainment.
Generation Z is different and it’s growing up quickly. Sports betting needs to begin reacting now before other attractions displace it from Generation Z’s agenda.
The Chinese government busted up an illegal online gambling ring focused on World Cup betting. Authorities arrested 42 people involved in the ring and removed approximately 320M yuan ($48M USD) from the illegal gambling ecosystem.
Bookies running the operation used apps like WeChat to communicate with patrons and take bets. The article claims that China has the world’s largest base of soccer fans. We have no idea if this is actually true (this chart doesn’t seem to agree), but given China’s overall population size, as well as Chinese hackers ability to infiltrate our servers if we make some snarky joke about that potential Trumpian misuse of data, we’ll just let it slide.
What can’t the Chinese illegally bet on now?
Not much. With (almost) all the favorites falling, 2018 World Cup odds are pretty straightforward now. France has looked the best all tournament and are 2-1 favorites. Our pick since the beginning, Belgium, is 11-4. Thanks to being on the easy side of the bracket, England is 5-2 and Croatia is 5-1.
They’re all pretty evenly matched though, and 538 gives France the best chance of winning the tournament (29%) with England second (27%), Belgium third (26%) and Croatia fourth (18%).
If that’s not boring enough for you, Harry Kane is listed at 1-7 to win the Golden Boot award. However, if England gets knocked out in the semis, Romelu Lukaku (10-1) and Kylian Mbappe (25-1) have longshot potential.