There was no shortage of major sports betting stories this year. Here’s our ranking of the top 10 for 2018.
Top 10 stories of the year
10. Haralabob to the Mavericks
We like to take a bigger picture view of things. Sometimes a smaller story has more significant ramifications.
Take into account Haralabos “Bob” Voulgaris (or @Haralabob on Twitter).
Voulgaris is as close to a celebrity (non-touting version) sports bettor as there is. He’s a regular guest on the “Bill Simmons Podcast” with a healthy Twitter following and has no shortage of strong opinions.
Much like how the World Poker Tour and WSOP took poker players out of the backrooms and spawned new celebrities, the legalization of sports betting legitimized some of the more reputable gurus making a good living off the lines.
Mark Cuban snatched up Voulgaris’ analytical acumen for a Mavericks’ front-office job. Long-time bettors Martin de Knijff and Bill Edler are overseeing ways to leverage technology to make sports betting more accessible.
Something like the Haralabos hire probably couldn’t have happened just a few years ago. Sports betting is getting mainstreamed, and its best and brightest are benefiting.
9. The match
While the actual golf and commentating (save Charles Barkley) could’ve been better, The match featuring Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson provided a template for where sports betting can go in the next few years.
This made-for-TV event was also made for betting. Betting information was integrated throughout the broadcast and embedded in the fabric of all facets of the competition (Side sauce, anyone?).
Expect more match-type events with greater fan interactivity and live-betting options in the future. Let’s hope the quality of competition meets the betting potential in the next go-around.
8. Newcomers innovating the market
Sports betting is legal in the US; Nevada must be leading the charge!
As it turns out, Nevada and its technology platforms are the ones who could learn something about sports betting in America (More on this in a later post.).
7. The battle for integrity fees
Has there ever been a less captivating battle than that of pro sports leagues lobbying for integrity fees?
This snoozer won’t go away and it’s understandable. The leagues want to monitor the integrity of their games to ensure the product is honest (fair enough) and charge a fee to do so for their financial benefit (obviously). Even college sports was looking into it (more obviously).
While some of this provided interesting theater, for the most part, integrity fees were like your Trump-loving, Fox-News-watching uncle at Thanksgiving: an annoying but unavoidable part of the discussion.
6. The technology acquisitions
The age-old question: do you build it or buy it?
If you have the money, buy it.
Acquisitions for prospective market entrants or to boost existing products were a sure bet with the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) repeal.
The Stars Group made a major chess move in acquiring Sky Bet. Paddy Power Betfair (Cougar Mellencamp) bought FanDuel. Scientific Games looked to enhance its product with the acquisition of Don Best (Was the boot camp not included?).
But if it’s not the acquisitions, it’s …
5. … technology partnerships
Hey, it takes a village, right? Whatever you have to do to enter a new market.
4. Pro sports partnerships
Wait, US sports league are striking sports betting partnerships, too?
You’re damn right they are.
As the year comes to a close, there’s been a whirlwind of deal-making for the pro leagues and operators.
The sports betting partnership model has existed for ages in Europe, but it’s a welcome sight with surprisingly rapid adoption in the US.
Pay credit to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for being waaaaay ahead of his contemporaries on this one (and knock NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for being far behind while sitting on the biggest betting cash cow out there).
3. The rise of new gambling content
By the second half of 2018, the sports betting floodgates had opened and there was no shortage of new gambling-related programming from companies looking to cash in on the new market. Fox News was in early. ESPN hopped in. Companies like VSIN were well ahead of the game. Um, TheLines.
While sports betting programming has focused on the obvious to start, it will get more interactive and inventive (think “Jackass” for money).
You can bet on that.
2. The early success of sports betting
You may find this shocking, but people like to gamble.
That’s the great thing about sports betting: everyone wins. Except for the losing bettors in New Jersey, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.
1. The repeal of PASPA
Putting the repeal of PASPA as the top story of the year is as obvious as listing Nirvana’s “Nevermind” as the best album of the ’90s or the “Godfather” (Part I or II) as the best movie ever. But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not right.
If it weren’t for the PASPA repeal, this list wouldn’t likely exist. It’s ushered in a flood of new money for content, marketing and advertising, and to state coffers.
The repeal of PASPA is not only the biggest sports betting story of the year; it’s the most critical gaming industry story of the century.